"Al Jolson (born Asa Yoelson in Seredzius, Lithuania on May 26, 1886 – October 23, 1950) was an American singer and the son of Jewish immigrants. He was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century. The son of a Jewish cantor, Jolson became a popular singer in New York City in 1898, and gradually developed the key elements of his performance: blackface makeup; exuberant gestures;operatic-style singing; whistling and directly addressing his audience. By 1911, he had parlayed a supporting appearance in the Broadway musical La Belle Paree into a starring role. He began recording and was soon internationally famous for his extraordinary stage presence and personal rapport with audiences. His Broadway career is unmatched for length and popularity, having spanned close to 30 years (1911-1940). However, he is best known today for his appearance in one of the first "talkies" The Jazz Singer, the first feature film with sound to enjoy wide commercial success, in 1927. In The Jazz Singer Jolson performed the song "Mammy," which became a racial slur describing a matronly black woman. In truth, Jolson's singing was never jazz, indeed his style remained forever rooted in the vaudeville stage at the turn of 20th century."