Avalon (Al Jolson song)

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Al Jolson Avalon cover.jpg
Early sheet music cover
Song by Al Jolson
PublishedSeptember 4, 1920 (1920-09-04) by Jerome H. Remick & Co., New York[1]
Songwriter(s)Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva, Vincent Rose
Al Jolson's 1920 recording of "Avalon".

"Avalon" is a 1920 popular song written by Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva and Vincent Rose referencing Avalon, California.[2] It was introduced by Jolson and interpolated in the musicals Sinbad and Bombo. Jolson's recording rose to number two on the charts in 1921.[2] The song was possibly written by Rose, but Jolson's popularity as a performer allowed him to claim composer co-credit.[2] Originally, only Rose and Jolson were credited, and DeSylva's name was added later.[2]

A popular jazz standard, the song has been recorded by many artists, including Cab Calloway (1934), Coleman Hawkins (1935) and Eddie Durham (1936). The Benny Goodman Quartet played the song in their famous 1938 Carnegie Hall concert.[2] The tune remains popular in the gypsy jazz repertoire, having been performed by Wawau Adler and others.

The tune's opening melody resembles a part of Giacomo Puccini's aria E lucevan le stelle, from the opera Tosca, but in the major key.[2] Puccini's publishers sued the song's composers in 1921 for use of the melody, and were awarded $25,000 and all subsequent royalties of the song by the court.[2]

Film appearances[edit]

The song was included in the biographical films The Jolson Story (1946) and The Benny Goodman Story (1956), and is also being noodled by Sam (Dooley Wilson) at the piano right before he plays "As Time Goes By" in the movie Casablanca (1942).[3] The song was played in the background in the 1932 movie You Said a Mouthful which starred Joe E. Brown. It also appears in the 1944 movie adaptation of Janie.

Al Jolson recorded it for Rose of Washington Square (1939); although it was cut from the finished film, the audio recording survives.[4]

It can also be heard in The Helen Morgan Story (1957)[5] where it is performed by Ann Blyth (dubbed by Gogi Grant) with chorus girls

It appears in It's a Wonderful Life ( 1946). It is playing in the background in the party scene about 35 minutes into the film, where George Bailey's mother urges George to pay a visit to Mary Hatch.

The song is played during the opening credits of Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow (2001), a film about an ill-fated 1924 voyage along the California coast aboard a yacht belonging to William Randolph Hearst.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1920). Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1920 Music Last Half of 1920 New Series Vol 15 Part 2. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Tyle, Chris. "Avalon (1920)". JazzStandards.com. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  3. ^ Jasen, David A. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Taylor & Francis. p. 14. ISBN 0-415-93700-0.
  4. ^ "Avalon" sung by Al Jolson (audio only) from Rose of Washington Square (1939) on YouTube
  5. ^ "Internet Movie Database". imdb.com. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  6. ^ "Victor matrix C-24391. Avalon / Ambassador Orchestra ; Paul Whiteman". Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  7. ^ Crawford, Richard; Magee, Jeffrey (1992). Jazz Standards on Record, 1900–1942: A Core Repertory. Center for Black Music Rsrch. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-929911-03-2.

External links[edit]