Tony-award winning performer Pearl Mae Bailey was born on this day in 1918 in Newport News, Virginia. As a young woman she became a Vaudeville dance and then a singer, touring Pennsylvania mining towns; then, during World War II, she entertained troops overseas through the United Service Organizations (USO). In 1958, Bailey joined the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), a performing rights organization. She made many records, with popular songs including "A Five Pound Box of Money"; "I'm Gonna Keep On Doin' "; and "Don't Be Afraid to Love."
Bailey's wider recognition grew as she garnered many accolades: a 1946 Donaldson Award as the best Broadway newcomer for her debut performance in St. Louis Woman and a 1968 Tony award as Dolly Levi in the all-black Broadway revival of the musical comedy Hello Dolly! She also won a 1986 Emmy award for her role as a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.
In midlife Bailey became an author, writing The Raw Pearl (1968), Talking to Myself (1971), Pearl's Kitchen (1973), and Hurry Up America and Spit (1976). In the 1970s, she became a United Nations adviser. She received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
"Hungry people cannot be good at learning or producing anything, except perhaps violence."
— in Pearl's Kitchen
"What the world really needs is more love and less paper work."
— in Weekly World News, April 25, 2005
"Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment."
— in Talking to Myself
"You never find yourself until you face the truth."
— in The Raw Pearl
We are fortunate to have many of Pearl Bailey's performances still available to us by audio and video recordings. Here she is singing "My Soul Is a Witness" with a choir of Muppets:
How true that her soul was (and still is!) a witness. In what ways does your life express the love which supports the universe? What is one way this week that you can you make that example even stronger?