Born in 1913 in Brooklyn, New York, Richard Tucker showed vocal promise at an early age. By age six he was singing in the synagogue choir. Although he tried his hand at working in the garment industry, his continued singing led to his working as a Cantor at the Brooklyn Jewish Center. In 1941 Mr. Tucker was a participant in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, but he did not win. He made his operatic debut as Alfredo in La Traviata at the Jolson Theater in New York in 1943. In 1944 Metropolitan Opera general manager Edward Johnson was pursuaded by Paul Althouse, who had been teaching Tucker, to attend a service at Brooklyn Jewish Center. On the spot Mr. Johnson offered Richard Tucker a contract commenting, "If you can hold an audience of 2000 in a synagogue you can hold an audience of 3600 in an opera house." His debute was on January 25, 1945 as Enzo in La Gioconda. As his career progressed his natural but unpolished abilities as an actor and his propensitiy for pranks became apparent. He never gave an unenthusiastic performance and would get his fellow singers to smile often. Once in the third act of La Forza del Destino he put a nude photo in the small casket to be found by his good friend Robert Merrill when he opened the casket. Mr. Tucker remained a very religious man and would not wear crosses during any of his performances. During the Viet Nam War he led a Passover Seder for Jewish memebers of the American troops.
He died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1975. Due to his close ties with the Met and its audiences, his funeral service was held on the Met's stage. His family established the Richard Tucker Foundation, which awards a prize to a rising opera star each year.