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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Norman Brooks born 19 August 1928


Norman Brooks (August 19, 1928 – September 14, 2006) was a Canadian singer, best known for his ability to sound like Al Jolson.

Singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, born Montreal of Lebanese parents, 19 Aug 1928, died there 14 Sep 2006. Possessing a voice naturally similar to that of Al Jolson, Brooks began his career in his late teens, singing in the Jolson style in Montreal nightclubs, often in duet with his sister Annie (who as Anne Brooks later sang in Canadian and US nightclubs).  

During his career he has returned frequently to Jolson routines, but he also has sung in a more personal style. By the early 1950s he had moved from clubs to theatres - eg, the Seville in Montreal and the Casino Theatre in Toronto. He made two 78s for Canadian Victor at this time.

In 1953 he went to New York where he appeared in nightclubs and recorded some sides for Zodiac, a label established expressly for Brooks. His records "Hello Sunshine" and "YouShouldn’t Have Kissed Me the First Time” were national hits in 1953. His song "A Sky-Blue Shirt and a Rainbow Tie" reached No. 17 in the UK Singles Chart in November 1954.
 
 

 
 
He was a popular nightclub and TV performer in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s. Billed as The Voice That Lives Again, Brooks was also the first Quebec-born entertainer to play Las Vegas, selling out the Copa Room at The Sands Hotel and Casino for 44 weeks in 1959 - 60.  He also performed frequently in Canadian nightclubs and on CBC TV, and was host for CTV's 'Musical Showcase' in 1966. He appeared in 1975 on Broadway in The Magic of Jolson and subsequently sang and played piano in New York nightclubs and continued to tour. He performed in 1979 at PDA.  

Brooks' other recordings include singles for Zodiac and for RCA's 'X' label, LPs of Jolson material for Spin-O-Rama, Coronet, Diplomat, and Sutton, and LPs of pop songs - some his own - for Verve, Sure, Promenade and Venus (see Kinkle's Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz for details). He sung under the name of Charlie Everett for the Viking Record label. Brooks played Jolson in the The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) and had dramatic roles in The Block (1963) and Ocean's Eleven (1965). 

In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Jolson style of entertainment fell out of style, Brooks became another forgotten relic of a bygone era. Lung problems forced him to pretty much retire. A heavy smoker, Brooks was 78 when he died of emphysema at the Jean Talon Hospital on Sept. 14.

Not only was another voice of Jolson silenced then, but Norman Brooks was a great talent all his own... 

(Info edited mainly from the Canadian encyclopedia.com, canada.com & Wikipedia)
 

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