Friday, November 27, 2020

100 years ago: Al Jolson “Avalon” charted


Al Jolson with Charles Prince’s Orchestra

Writer(s): Vincent Rose, Buddy DeSylva, Al Jolson (see lyrics here)

First Charted: November 27, 1920

Peak: 2 US, 11 GA, 12 SM (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The title “Avalon” evokes thoughts of “the legendary island…where King Arthur’s sword Excalibur was forged” SM but is actually about a resort town on Catalina Island off the coast of California. JS It was a popular destination for Hollywood’s film community. JS Lyrically, the song tells the listener how the protagonist discovers his love beside the bay in Avalon, then sails away, leaving his love behind. Then he dreams about her and the desire to return to Avalon.

Jolson is given songwriting credit, but likely had nothing to do with writing the song. However, by including him on songwriting royalties, it made it encouraged him to perform the song and make it popular. TY2 Buddy DeSylva’s name was not originally on the credits but was added later. It is possible that he had a role in writing the lyrics as he did with many songs supposedly composed by Jolson. JS

Musically, Vincent Rose most likely deserves the credit JS although the melody of “Avalon” comes from the aria “E Lucevan le Stelle” from the opera Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. TY2 Puccini’s publishers sued and were awarded $25,000 in damages as well all future royalties. TY2

Jolson integrated the song into the musical Sinbad, which had opened on Broadway in 1918. He re-recorded the song after the 1946 film biopic The Jolson Story. The song was also used in 1932’s You Said a Mouthful, 1942’s Cairo, 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946’s Margie, 1956’s The Benny Goodman Story, 1957’s The Helen Morgan Story, 1999’s Sweet and Low Down, and 2001’s The Cat’s Meow. The song has been recorded and/or performed by Chet Atkins, Cab Calloway, Nat “King” Cole, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Harry James, Red Nichols, and Art Hickman, who took the song to #11 in 1921.


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First posted 1/28/2023.

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