Born: March 29, 1918 | Died: August 17, 1990 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Never formally trained in music, Pearl Bailey credited her love of music to growing up in a Holy Roller evangelical church where her father was the minister. In her early career in amateur shows and nightclubs she developed her throaty style, embellished with asides and ad libs.
Pearl Bailey sang with bands, later on stage and in films. The all-black version of Hello, Dolly! is one of her best-known roles; she played that role from 1967 to 1969 and in a later revival. Pearl Bailey was a frequent guest on television variety shows and had her own show on ABC in 1970-71.
At age 67, Pearl Bailey graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelor's degree in theology. In 1968, 1971, 1973 and 1989 she published books on her life, cooking, and educational experiences. In 1975 Pearl Bailey served as a special ambassador to the United Nations and in 1988 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Pearl Bailey was married three times. The last marriage, to drummer Louis Bellson, lasted 40 years. Together they adopted a daughter and a son.
Pearl Bailey signs her autograph, All Love, Pearl. - -and she means it. This rare treasure has a heart as big as the world.
If there is a benefit for children, Pearl is supporting it. If one cares about other's liberty and rights, Pearl is there, standing tall and advocating that the ethical and fair thing be done. If AIDS is the issue, Pearl rolls up her sleeves and wades right in to see that the humane thing be done. In other words, Pearl loves people... all kinds of people, any age, any race, any nationality, any philosophy. To her, people are people.
Many know Pearl Bailey as a consummate entertainer, and that is true. Since she was a young girl, she has been singing, performing, entertaining, innovating, captivating her audience throughout the world. She has performed in all mediums, from night clubs to the stage on Broadway to movies to television. She has appeared in such hits as Variety Girl, Isn't It Romantic, Carmen Jones, That Certain Feeling, St. Louis Blues, and Porgy and Bess. She has received the theater's highest honor, the Tony Award.
And as magnificent as she is as an entertainer, Pearl Bailey's personal commitment to helping others is greater. She was the United States Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations (and she took her job very seriously). She spoke to the World Health Organization about the importance of world cooperation and concern about AIDS victims. She is worked with Barbara Bush on her nationwide literacy campaign. She spook to young people throughout the nation about commitment and contribution. She worked for child abuse prevention and family cohesiveness.
The Living Legacy Award acknowledges and honors human contribution. Pearl Bailey genuinely deserved this recognition, for she cares about people with all her heart-and she does something positive about her concerns.
It was with great pride that Women's International Center presents the Living Legacy Award to Miss Pearl Bailey, March 11, 1989.
Her father Joseph was a minister and her mother was named Ella Mae. Her birth name was Pearly Mae but her parents anticipated she would be a boy and when a girl was born she was nicknamed Dickie. Her brother was entertainer Bill Bailey (1912-1978).
She spent her early life in Washington DC where she received her early education. Bailey frequently appeared in the Old Howard theater in downtown Washington. As a young woman she toured the Pennsylvania mining towns as a dancer and later as a singer in Vaudeville. She starred in the film St. Louis Blues opposite Nat King Cole, which was the biography of W.C. Handy. Her greatest theater role was in the Broadway musical Hello Dolly.
Composer, singer and songwriter. She was a dancer, then a singer in New York in the early 1940s, touring with the Cootie Williams orchestra, and later a featured singer in night clubs, radio and television. She made stage appearances in Arms and the Girl, St. Louis Woman; and House of Flowers. She made many records. Joining ASCAP in 1958, her popular-song compositions include: A Five Pound Box of Money; Jingle Bells Cha Cha Cha; I'm Gonna Keep On Doin'; and Don't Be Afraid to Love.
Birth of the Blues (1952)
Cultured Pearl (1952)
I'm with You (1953)
Say Si Si (1953)
The Intoxicating Pearl Bailey (1956)
The One and Only Pearl Bailey Sings (1956)
Gems by Pearl Bailey (1958)
Pearl Bailey A-Broad (1959)
Pearl Bailey Sings for Adults Only (1959)
Pearl Bailey Plus Margie Anderson Singing the Blues (1960?)
More Songs for Adults Only (1960)
Naughty But Nice (1960)
Songs of the Bad Old Days (1960)
Pearl Bailey Sings the Songs of Harold Arlen (1961)
Come On, Let's Play with Pearlie Mae (1962)
Happy Sounds (1962)
All About Good Little Girls and Bad Little Boys (1963)
C'est La Vie (1963)
Les Poupées de Paris (1964)
Songs By James Van Heusen (1964)
The Risque World of Pearl Bailey (1964)
For Women Only (1965)
The Jazz Singer (1965)
Hello, Dolly! (1967 Broadway cast)
After Hours (1969)
Pearl's Pearls (1971)
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