The American singer Sophie Tucker, who died 50 years ago on Tuesday, was one of the most successful recording artists of her day. She was on intimate terms with presidents and gangsters, and she showed that it was possible for a female artist to get to the top of show business on her own terms.
In 1962, when Americans were asked what they thought when they heard the name “Sophie” 95% answered “Tucker”.
By this stage, the singer had gambled a fortune away and also given millions to charity. She had known seven US presidents and counted both Chicago mobster Al Capone and FBI boss J Edgar Hoover as close friends. She smoked so much that a parrot, belonging to one of her friends, would cough every time her name was mentioned.
Tucker was known as “the last of the red hot mamas”, a nickname from one of her most popular songs. She would appear on stage and TV shows wreathed in yards of silk and sequins, to deliver songs and skits with her pianist, Ted Shapiro. The material was saucy but always delivered straight, in Tucker’s prim-and-proper New England accent, and accompanied by little waves of a chiffon handkerchief.
Sophie Tucker: Everybody loves a fat girl – BBC News