Emigrating with his family at the age of 13, Jean Schwartz
grew up in New York City where he learned to play the piano and eventually found himself a job demonstrating songs in a department store to assist in the peddling of sheet music. His first real inroad to Tin Pan Alley was a position as pianist and tune plugger with the firm of Shapiro, Bernstein and Von Tilzer. Falling in with conventional cakewalk imitators, Schwartz
inaugurated his songwriting career with "Dusky Dudes" in 1899. William Jerome
became his partner in 1901, and they spun out novelties with titles like "Rip Van Winkle Was a Lucky Man," "When Mr. Shakespeare Comes to Town," and "Bedelia (The Irish Coon Song Serenade)." This last number, involving a couple of popularly caricatured ethnic stereotypes, sold more than three million copies on the sheet music market.
Apparently thinking of Marie Curie, Schwartz published a "Radium Dance" in 1904. His hits of 1908 included "Dear Sing Sing," "Good-Bye Mr. Ragtime Man," and an authentically smart little rag called "The Whitewash Man," which still sounds more substantial than most raggytime-flavored pop music from that period. "Black Beauty Rag," "Dat Possum Rag," and "The Popcorn Man" appeared in 1910, but were immediately and subsequently overshadowed by Schwartz and Jerome's all-time greatest hit, "Chinatown, My Chinatown." Still riding the ragtime trend, Schwartz cooked up "April Fool Rag" in 1911 and "That Chop Stick Rag" in 1912. In 1913, exercising his knack for fashioning memorable ditties, Schwartz gave the world "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" and a delightful sort of musical manifesto with the title "(Syncopation Rules the Nation) You Can't Get Away from It," which was wonderfully rendered on a phonograph recording by Bert Williams in 1914.
Schwartz and Jerome operated their own songwriting agency for a while, only to dissolve their partnership as the First World War so drastically transformed the entire entertainment industry. Schwartz's most poignant WWI title was "Hello Central! Give Me No Man's Land," popularized by Al Jolson. In 1918 Schwartz provided the singer with a lifelong signature tune, "Rockabye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody." He ground out a few more pop songs, including "On the Level, You're a Little Devil (But I'll Soon Make an Angel of You)." The last noteworthy melody written by Jean Schwartz was "Au Revoir, Pleasant Dreams," published in 1930 and adopted by sweet stuff bandleader Ben Bernie as his broadcasting theme song. Schwartz went into retirement and passed away in Los Angeles on the 30th of November 1956. ~ arwulf arwulf, Rovi