Wednesday, August 17, 2016

8/17/1918: “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” hits #1

image from

Al Jolson with the Charles Prince Orchestra “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody”

Writer(s): Sam Lewis/ Joe Young/ Jean Schwartz (see lyrics here)

First charted: 8/10/1918

Peak: 18 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Crooner Bing Crosby once said of “Broadway’s most charismatic performer,” “Nobody could sell a song like Jolson.” LW-40 “Rock-a-Bye” was one of his signature songs, debuting alongside 26 other musical numbers in the stage play Sinbad. PS The show, which starred Jolson in his familiar black face, LW-40 opened at the Winter Garden on February 14, 1918 and ran for 164 performances. PS

Jean Schwartz, who was a native Hungarian, wrote the music. His sister had studied under composer Franz Liszt and taught Schwartz to play piano. LW-40 The lyrics were penned by Tin Pan Alley writers Sam Lewis and Joe Young, who also wrote for the vaudeville circuit and penned hits such as “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and “Sitting on Top of the World.” Lewis had previously worked as a café singer while Young demoed songs for publishing houses. LW-40 The “Stephen Foster sound-a-like song” even mentions the famous writer’s “Old Black Joe” and “Swanee River.” RCG

Jolson took the song to #1 in 1918; that same year Arthur Fields’ version went to #9. Jolson integrated the song in his vaudeville act and performed the song in three films – 1939’s Rose of Washington Square, 1946’s The Jolson Story, and 1946’s Jolson Sings Again. The song was also featured in 1929’s The Show of Shows and 1944’s The Merry Monahans. PS

The song resurfaced in 1956 as a top ten, million-selling hit for comedian Jerry Lewis JA-165 and Aretha Franklin hit #37 with he song in 1961. Cher, Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, Judy Garland, and Brenda Lee also recorded versions. RCG

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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