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Sophie Tucker
(Jan 13, 1884 - Feb 9, 1966)

Born to Jewish parents in Russia, Sophie was billed as "The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas" Born Sonia Kalish, the family, after immigrating to the United States, changed the family name to Kalish. Also there is some question whether her actual birth name was Sonia or Sophia or whether Sophie was a nickname for Sonia.

She started singing at age 19 and was briefly married to a man named Louis Tuck. She took his name as her own and changed it to Tucker for her act.

At first she performed in blackface, because, as Sophie herself tells it, "The managers said I was "too fat and too ugly' to be accepted by an audience in any other context." Never one to be discouraged by an insult Sophie worked the image even singing songs like Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love.

Because of her amble girth she often found herself, in the beginning, singing to and involved with, African Americans, who were also stigmatized by the vaudeville stage. She became known for belting out "Coon Songs," as they were called. Always one to remember her friends, Tucker paid back the kindness African Americans showed her. When she got famous, she routinely hired African American singers and used African American songwriters for her act. Tucker was especially indebted to Ethel Waters who taught her how to "sing black."

In addition to singing she was a fine female comic. Joan Davis, Roseanne, Joan Rivers and Bette Midler expressed that she had a profound influence on their comedic style.

Her most famous quote is, "I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better."

The Beatles used to salute her by saying, "It's also been done by our favourite American group - Sophie Tucker."

She died in 1966 of lung cancer

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Sophie Tucker

picture of Sophie Tucker in costume    picture of Sophie Tucker

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