Tracy, Arthur, 1899-1997

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1899-06-25
Death 1997-10-05

Biographical notes:

Arthur Tracy was born Abba Trascovutsky in Kamenetz-Podolsk in Moldavia on June 25, 1899.

His family moved to the United States in 1906. Tracy studied at the Curtis Institute, and then graduated to vaudeville and Yiddish theaters. He toured in Blossom Time and The Student Prince. After the 1929 stock market crisis he worked in nightclubs, variety, even sang black face Mammy songs. He eventually considered his voice a "bari-tenor." William S. Paley offered Tracy a fifteen minute CBS radio program. The Street Singer, the name he chose, debuted on radio in 1931. Tracy's repertoire included Viennese operetta, love songs, pop songs, and cowboy songs as well as songs in several languages. In 1935 he went to England and stayed there for four years. From 1936 to1938 he starred in the films Limelight with Anna Neagle, Command Performance with Lilli Palmer, The Street Singer with Margaret Lockwood, and Follow Your Star with Belle Chrystall. He only left England when war was imminent and all Americans were ordered to leave. He continued to sing for benefits; often he performed for free because he did not need the money. A thriving English based fan club welcomed him back on tour in the late 1960s. His singing career resurged in the United States after his recording of the song Pennies from Heaven was used the 1981 film of the same title. Tracy performed several concert dates and toured with the company of the play Social Security. He also had a part in the 1988 film Crossing Delancy. In 1987 he received South Florida's Carbonell Award for supporting actor in Social Security in the roadshow category. In 1996 he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He also received a star on the Philadelphia walk of fame. Arthur Tracy died of cardiac arrest on October 5, 1997 at the age of 98.

From the description of Arthur Tracy papers 1883-1976, 1987-1993. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 213471683

Arthur Tracy was born Abba Trascovutsky in Kamenetz-Podolsk in Moldavia on June 25, 1899 . His family escaped the pogroms and moved to the United States in 1906 . Tracy grew up as one of seven siblings in Philadelphia. As a child, he showed that he had a talent for singing and began singing in public. He considered being an architect, and even began his studies at the University of Pennsylvania; but decided he did not want to spend the necessary years as an apprentice before he succeeded and chose to drop out to focus on his singing. Tracy considered Caruso his idol and ultimately studied at the Curtis Institute. He sang at weddings and parties and then graduated to vaudeville and Yiddish theaters. He toured in Blossom Time and The Student Prince . After the 1929 stock crisis he worked in nightclubs, variety, even sang black face Mammy songs. He eventually considered his voice a “bari-tenor.”

William S. Paley offered Tracy a fifteen minute CBS radio program. Not wanting to embarrass his family if he failed, Tracy chose to remain anonymous. He was going to bill himself as the Vagabond Singer, but realized that Rudy Vallee was known as the Vagabond Lover. He also considered calling himself the International Balladeer. By chance, he read about a Frederick Lonsdale play called The Street Singer and chose to utilize that name as his identity. The Street Singer debuted on radio in 1931 and quickly won over audiences. After five months, his identify as Arthur Tracy was revealed. Tracy’s repertoire included Viennese operetta, love songs, pop songs, and cowboy songs as well as songs in several languages. His theme song was Marta (Rambling Rose of the Wildwood) by Moises Simons. Tracy appeared in the 1932 film, The Big Broadcast, with Bing Crosby and Kate Smith. He was not a success in American film and instead continued his singing career.

In 1935 he went to England for a seven week tour and ultimately stayed for four years. In England he found immense popularity which resulted in him being offered film roles. From 1936 to 1938 he starred in the films Limelight with Anna Neagle, Command Performance with Lilli Palmer, The Street Singer with Margaret Lockwood, and Follow Your Star with Belle Chrystall. In 1937, Tracy was considered the most popular singer in England while Bing Crosby was number two. With war on the horizon, Tracy took part in drills and air raid scares. He only left England when war was imminent and all Americans were ordered to leave.

Tracy returned to the United States and entered real estate with several properties in Philadelphia and Washington, D. C. He spent much of the following decades in real estate; ultimately he became a multi-millionaire. Tracy was married and divorced three times throughout his life, but remained close to his wife Blossom. He continued to sing for benefits; often he performed for free because he did not need the money. A thriving English based fan club welcomed him back on tour in the late 1960s . His singing career resurged in the United States after his recording of the song Pennies from Heaven was used the 1981 film of the same title. Tracy performed several concert dates and toured with the company of the play Social Security . He also had a part in the 1988 film Crossing Delancy .

In 1987 he received South Florida’s Carbonell award for Supporting Actor in Social Security in the roadshow category. In 1996 he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He also received a star on the Philadelphia walk of fame.

Arthur Tracy died of cardiac arrest on October 5, 1997 at the age of 98.

From the guide to the Arthur Tracy papers, 1883-1976, 1987-1993, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Motion picture actors and actresses--United States--20th century
  • Singers--United States--20th century
  • Popular music--United States--20th century
  • Entertainers--20th century
  • Singers--20th century
  • Popular music--20th century
  • Motion picture actors and actresses--20th century
  • Entertainers--United States--20th century

Occupations:

  • Entertainers
  • Singers

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)