Born in Newport News, VA, Pearl Mae Bailey was an American singer and actress. She made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946. She won a Tony Award for the title role in Hello, Dolly! In 1970. Her rendition of "Takes Two to Tango" hit the top ten in 1952.
In 1954, she took the role of Frankie in the film version of Carmen Jones, and her rendition of "Beat Me That Rhythm on the Drum" is one of the highlights of the film. In 1959, she played the role of Maria in the film version of Porgy and Bess starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. During the 1970s, she had her own television show, and she also provided voices for animations such as Tubby the Tuba (1976) and Disney's The Fox and the Hound (1981).
She was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 17, 1988.
She was married to jazz drummer Louie Bellson until her death. The couple have 1 son and 1 daughter (adopted).