Nora Bayes (October 8, 1880 – March 19, 1928) was a popular American singer, comedian and actress of the early 20th century.
Born Eleanora Sarah Goldberg to Elias and Rachel (née Miller) Goldberg, with "Dora" being a pet or nickname, to a Jewish family in Joliet, Illinois; she had a brother, Harry, and a sister, Mrs. Ida Klein. Bayes was performing professionally in vaudeville in Chicago by age 18. She toured from San Francisco, California to New York City and became a star both on the vaudeville circuit and the Broadway stage. In 1908, she married singer-songwriter Jack Norworth. The two toured together and were credited for collaborating on a number of compositions, including the immensely popular "Shine On, Harvest Moon", which the pair debuted in Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies of 1908. Bayes and Norworth divorced in 1913.
After America entered World War I Bayes became involved with morale boosting activities. George M. Cohan asked that she be the first to record a performance of his patriotic song "Over There". Her recording was released in 1917 and became an international hit. She also performed shows for the soldiers. In 1919, she recorded "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?" for Columbia which became a hit for that year. Bayes made many phonograph records (some with Norworth) for the Victor and Columbia labels. From 1924-28, her accompanist was pianist Louis Alter, who later composed the popular songs "Manhattan Serenade", "Nina Never Knew", and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?".
Bayes established her own theater, The Nora Bayes Theater on West 44th Street in New York. Bayes married five times. Her first husband was Otto Gressing, a Chicago businessman, and Norworth was her second. Husband number three was a dancer named Harry Clarke who also performed with her in vaudeville. Husband number four was New York business man Arthur Gordoni. Her fifth and last husband was Benjamin Friedland, a New York City businessman and garage owner. Bayes bore no biological children in any of her marriages. However, she adopted three children. The oldest was Norman Bayes, adopted by Bayes and Gordoni in March 1918. Bayes' second adopted child was a daughter named Lea Nora, adoption date July 25, 1919. Her third adopted child was Peter Oxley Bayes, born March 9, 1921 in London and adopted on March 16, 1922.
In 1928, Nora Bayes was diagnosed with cancer and died following surgery. She was buried 18 years later with her fifth husband, Ben Friedland, in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, although inexplicably, her grave is not marked. On April 11, 2006, under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, Nora Bayes was added to the National Recording Registry. The citation stated that she was. Inextricably associated in popular imagination with World War I... a former member of the Ziegfeld Follies, an extremely popular vaudevillian and a Broadway star, she recorded a number of other songs to boost morale during the war and performed extensively for the soldiers.