Comedienne, Singer, Songwriter. She is best remembered for introducing George M. Cohan's song, "Over There" during World War I, and for co-writing "Shine On, Harvest Moon" (1903). She was born Dora or Leonora Goldberg (her name was possibly a fabrication that she used with reporters) in Joliet, Illinois, changing her name to Nora Bates when she decided upon a stage career. She would never reveal where or when she was born or raised, or who her parents were, and speculation was that she had an unhappy childhood. In 1918, she did indicate that her parents considered the theater and all its works the lowest form of damnation and sin, and that it was only when she married at the age of 17 to Otto Gressing, that she was free to pursue her interest in the theater. She had her debut in 1901, in the Broadway play "The Rogers Brothers in Washington," and worked with other vaudevillians on the music of "Meet Me in St. Louis." She performed in the "Follies of 1907" and it was the next year that she met Jack Norworth, in the "Follies of 1908." They were married in 1908, and the marriage lasted five years. With her second husband, she starred in stage shows and co-wrote many songs, including her most famous lyrics composition "Shine On, Harvest Moon." From 1910 to 1917, she recorded some 33 performances for the Victor Talking Machine Company (forerunner of RCA Victor Records). Her popularity dimmed in the 1920s, but she continued to give performances almost until her death in 1928. Known as the "Wurzburger Girl" for her many recorded songs, she was married and divorced five times. She died of cancer in Brooklyn, New York. The 1944 movie, "Shine On Harvest Moon" is based upon her life.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Nora Bayes Friedland