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.