Holiday Playlist, Track Two

It’s no exaggeration when I call Pearl Bailey (1918-1990) a Renaissance woman. Sure, she won a Tony Award and an Emmy Award, but how many other performers have won a Congressional Medal of Freedom? (Bailey did, in 1988.) She starred in several Broadway productions, and appeared in many films and TV shows. (Her 1979 Muppet Show episode features a nifty jousting-themed scene where she sings a Broadway medley with the gang. At the end of the episode, she offers to help the Muppets out of their armor, claiming to have been a welder. I wouldn’t be surprised.) She wrote six books (including three memoirs and a cookbook), and did humanitarian work for the United Nations and the USO. In between all this, she recorded dozens of albums. That brings us to today’s holiday gem, 1959’s “Five Pound Box of Money.”

(One of my favorite college memories reminds me of Pearl Bailey, too. Her husband, jazz drummer and orchestra leader Louie Bellson, played a show at Stanford in 1996 or 1997. The highlight of the evening was a drum battle between Bellson and a student named Mike Uchic. Uchic seemed nervous at first, but did an excellent job of keeping up with the jazz great. [His style reminded me a bit of Buddy Rich.] The seventysomething Bellson, of course, was unstoppable and unflappable. Not only were his stamina and creativity amazing, THE MAN’S HAIR NEVER MOVED through the whole epic bout. I was in awe.)

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