When You Were Sweet Sixteen has attracted the attention of some of the top performers of every generation over the last 100 years.
Al Jolson was the first major artist of world renown to acknowledge the song when he recorded it 1927.
The song also featured in the 1947 biopic, The Jolson Story, starring Larry Parks.
Although, Parks appeared to be singing the song in the film, the vocals were provided by Jolson himself, who was effectively acting as his own voice double.
Shirley Temple and Little Miss Broadway
When You Were Sweet Sixteen features briefly in the 1938 film Little Miss Broadway featuring Shirley Temple.
It begins with four middle-aged men singing the song in barber shop quartet style.
The joke of the performance is that one of the singers goes off key.
It’s left to the child star Shirley to show her elders how it should be done, a little contrived for today’s audiences perhaps but very popular with cinema goers in the pre-war years.
Perry Como has a billboard hit
Perry Como had big hit in the United States with When You Were Sweet Sixteen in 1947.
It spent 12 weeks in the Billboard charts, peaking at number 2.
Como’s success inspired several other singers and band leaders to record the song at around the same time, including the Mills Brothers, Joe Loss, Slim Whitman and Josef Locke.
The Ink Spots brought the song to the rock ‘n roll generation with their recording in 1959.
Glen Campbell, Barry Manilow, Daniel O’Donnell
Glen Campbell gave the song a country feel with his version which appeared on his 1985 album, It’s Just a Matter of Time.
Barry Manilow provided a highly polished and well produced version when he recorded for his album, The Greatest Love Songs of all Time, released in 2010.
It was also one of the stand-out tracks on Daniel O’Donnell’s album Moon Over Ireland, which was released in 2011.
A medley of songs by The Mills Brothers singing barbershop melodies. Songs include Let Me Call you Sweetheart, Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, I Want a Girl and When You were Sweet Sixteen.
Sweet Sixteen survives for over a century
When You Were Sweet Sixteen is one of those songs that keeps coming back every 20 years or so when it is discovered again by a new generation.
The Fureys had a massive hit with in 1981. It also became a favourite track among fans of British singer Joe Longthorne, and as we have seen above, top performers like Barry Manilow and Daniel O’Donnel continue to keep it alive for new audiences.