Sophie Tucker Quotes

Sophie Tucker, 1886 – 1966

Born: 13 January 1886, Tulchyn, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Died: 9 February 1966, New York City

Born Sonya Kalish, her father was on the run from the tsar’s army, the family fled to America and settled at Hartford, Connecticut where they operated a kosher diner and rooming house. Their offerings attracted a large number of vaudevillians and Sonya learned it was better money and easier work to sing to the customers than to wash their dishes. She eloped with Louis Tuck in 1903 but by the time their son was born she decided he didn’t work hard enough and sent him on his way. Once she had saved enough money to leave her son with family, she went to New York to start her own vaudeville career in 1906. A club manager declared her “too fat and ugly” to appear as herself so she was presented in black face as a “coon shouter”, belting out ragtime, blues, and other Black-influenced music. Arriving at an engagement at Boston while her trunk was delayed, she went on stage in her own clothes and face and was even more of a hit, thus was born “Sophie Tucker, the Last of the Red-Hot Mamas”. She was on stage for the last performance at “The Palace” as the vaudeville era was ending, she worked in radio, films, and musical theatre without great success, after WW II she turned to nightclubs and thrived, working until about two weeks before her death from a lung problem and renal failure. To provide variety in her performance she put her own composer on salary to give her a great repertory of the bawdy, suggestive songs that were her trademark, and she joked that she spent half her fees on costumes. Over the six decades of her career she gave away over four million dollars to a range of charities in the US and Israel. The teamster’s union was on strike when Tucker died but the hearse drivers put down their picket signs for her funeral procession.

Sophie Tucker quotes:

Even though I loved the song [My Yiddish Momme] and it was a sensational hit every time I sang it, I was always careful to use it only when I knew the majority of the house would understand Yiddish. However, you didn’t have to be a Jew to be moved by ‘My Yiddish Momme.’ ‘Mother’ in any language means the same thing.
    Sophie Tucker

Everyone knew the theater was to be closed down, and a landmark in show business would be gone. That feeling got into the acts. The whole place, even the performers, stank of decay. I seemed to smell it. It challenged me. I was determined to give the audience the idea: why brood over yesterday? We have tomorrow. As I sang I could feel the atmosphere change. The gloom began to lift, the spirit which formerly filled the Palace and which made it famous among vaudeville houses the world over came back. That’s what an entertainer can do.
    Sophie Tucker – about the last show at “The Palace”, New York City (closed 19 November 1932)

From birth to age eighteen, a girl needs good parents. From eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks. From thirty-five to fifty-five, she needs a good personality. From fifty-five on, she needs good cash.
    Sophie Tucker

Gradually, at the concerts, I began to hear calls for ‘the fat girl’…. Then I would jump up for the piano stool, forgetting about my size, 145 pounds at age 13, and work to get all the laughs I could get.
    Sophie Tucker

I couldn’t make [her mother] understand that it wasn’t a career that I was after. It was just that I wanted a life that didn’t mean spending most of it at the cookstove and the kitchen sink.
    Sophie Tucker – Some of These Days (1945)

I would stand up in the narrow space by the door [of her parents’ diner] and sing with all the drama I could put into it. At the end of the last chorus, between me and the onions there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
    Sophie Tucker

I would start off with a lively rag, then would come a ballad, followed by a comedy song and a novelty number, and finally, the hot song. In this way, I left the stage with the audience laughing their heads off.
    Sophie Tucker – Some of These Days (1945)

I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.
    Sophie Tucker

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.
    Sophie Tucker

Independence! That’s the key Lois! Find yourself a career, something … some passion!… You once wanted to be a writer…. I believe in you Lois. I believe that you’re destined to be more than just a housewife. Start by finishing your college degree and launching your writing career…. Promise me?
    Sophie Tucker – to her niece Lois Young-Tulin, backstage at the Latin Casino, mid 1960s

It is a commentary on Berlin in 1931 that … it was ‘My Yiddishe Momme’ that the Berlin Broadcasting Company asked for.
    Sophie Tucker

Keep breathing.
    Sophie Tucker

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Weep and you sleep alone.
    Sophie Tucker

Once you start carrying your own suitcase, paying your own bills, running your own show, you’ve done something to yourself that makes you one of those women men like to call ‘a pal’ and ‘a good sport,’ the kind of woman they tell their troubles to. But you’ve cut yourself off from the orchids and the diamond bracelets, except those you buy yourself.
    Sophie Tucker – Some of These Days (1945)

Playing two months or more in one city meant new songs all the time. If people paid their dimes to see and hear Sophie Tucker, they didn’t want to hear the same songs over and over or see the same clothes.
    Sophie Tucker – Some of These Days (1945)

Success in show business depends on your ability to make and keep friends.
    Sophie Tucker

You-all can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl and I just learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years. And now, Mr. Leader, please play my song.
    Sophie Tucker – when her costume trunk was lost (ca. 1909)

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