Today we remember a singer with a distinct talent for humor. Written by Linnea Crowther. Originally published March 2012.
Pearl Bailey, born 95 years ago today, was so much more than an actress and singer. She was author of six books and adoptive mother of two children. She was a college graduate, receiving her bachelor's degree in theology from Georgetown at age 67. She served as special ambassador to the United Nations, and was also America's "Ambassador of Love" (as appointed by Richard Nixon
in 1970). She was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a New York City Bronze Medallion honoree, a Daytime Emmy winner. She was an icon. And last but certainly not least, she was funny.
In this March 8, 1974, file photo President Nixon plays "Home on the Range" as blues great Pearl Bailey is overcome with laughter while singing for governors and guests at the White House. Bailey had persuaded Nixon to play, telling him he could choose any number he wanted. But when he played "Home on the Range," Bailey complained, "Mr. President, I want to sing a song, not ride a horse." The two then had trouble finding the same key. "I don't know whether I'm finding him, or he's finding me," Bailey said. Nixon said, "I just want to say to our distinguished guests that this piano will never be the same again and neither will I." (AP Photo/File)
Today we’re celebrating the great entertainer's life by showcasing the talent that got the world's attention in the first place. Here are a few clips of Pearl Bailey doing what she did so well: singing, acting, and making us laugh.
Pearl Bailey with Nat King Cole on his variety show:
Bailey's version of "Big Spender" was an absolute delight:
If you liked hearing her riff on "Big Spender," you'll love this version of "Mack the Knife" with Dinah Shore – Bailey's funny explanation of the song is classic: