Today’s Red Hot Mama

Source: New York Public Library

If you like Madonna, Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry, you’ll love Sophie.

Also known as “Iron Lungs” or “Queen of Jazzaration,” her best title was “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.” Beginning in 1906 and running for six decades (yes, six decades), the career of Sophie Tucker (her own stage name) proved the point and the entertainment value of a woman with a full voice and a strong point of view.

As posted in our daily Culture News, the New York Times has a feature on the new recordings “Sophie Tucker: Origins of the Red Hot Mama 1910-1922” produced by Archeophone. (Their company slogan: “Songs You Thought Were Lost Forever.” Perfect.) This new digital package from the original wax and 78 r.p.m. recordings brings back the power of Sophie.

Today’s female pop stars owe their swagger, in your face sexuality, and genuine sense of fun in no small part to Tucker. When she began in vaudeville there was still the dusty echo of the Victorian era. Tucker’s live performances opened a door to a new world of laughter and love, each as raucous as the other.

“I’ve never sung a single song in my whole life on purpose to shock anyone. My ‘hot numbers’ are all, if you will notice, written about something that is real in the lives of millions of people.” Thankfully, real, indeed.

Some of her most popular songs include, A Good Man is Hard to Find, I’m Living Alone and I Like It, I Ain’t Takin’ Orders from No One, No Man is Ever Gonna Worry Me, Some of These Days, My Yiddishe Mama, and What’ll You Do?

And, some of her best lines include:

  • I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.
  • From birth to 18 a girl needs good parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55 good personality. From 55 on, she needs good cash. I’m saving my money.
  • Four things a woman should know: how to look like a girl; how to act like a lady; how to think like a man; and, how to work like a dog.
  • Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.
  • The secret to longevity is to keep breathing.

From Ziegfeld to Broadway to movies to radio and to television, Tucker knew how to create an audience and a legacy.

The Tucker persona is also famously adopted by Bette Midler, who keeps up the act in her online advice column, Ask Soph, as well as on stage. (I will never forget it you know. It was on the occasion of Ernie’s eightieth birthday. He rang me up and said, “Soph! Soph! I just married myself a twenty-year old girl. What do you think of that?” I said to him, “Ernie, when I am eighty I shall marry me a twenty-year old boy. And let me tell you something Ernie: twenty goes into eighty a helluva lot more than eighty goes into twenty!”)

A big festival thanks to Archeophone. Sophie Tucker’s act is played on festival stages all over the world, today. Now we can have the original recording, as well.

- Bill Reichblum

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2 Responses to “Today’s Red Hot Mama”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Nice Girl Pop
    September 3rd, 2009 00:06

    [...] New York Times Bad Girl Pop [...]

  2. disque dur
    September 12th, 2009 03:21

    Nice article!
    It gave the information which i never heard before. I had heard few things about ‘Queen of Jazzaration’ from my mother.I like the positive attitudes and thoughts of her. We should proud of her.

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