Morgan Freeman, the man with the voice of God, will front a BBC Radio 2 documentary this Easter Monday.
Called The Raw Pearl Bailey, the show will centre of the life and music of actress and singer Pearl Bailey in the centenary year of her birth.
A huge Bailey fan, Freeman made his Broadway debut with Pearl when he starred in an all-black production of Hello Dolly in 1967.
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“It was a monumental moment for me, watching Pearl Bailey sass the audience as well as absorbing her professionalism,” says Freeman. He says that he considers Hello Dolly! among the top five shows of his career, and as he exclaims in the Radio 2 documentary itself, “She was top to bottom genuine, and if you’re listening up there Pearl – Baby I LOVE YOU!”
A preacher’s daughter from Virginia, Pearl Bailey gained stardom as an actress and singer on Broadway, before going on to star in movies including Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess.
On the set of Porgy and Bess, Bailey challenged the filmmakers for their ‘undignified and unnatural’ depiction of African American dialect, telling reporters, “There’s a lot of people out there waiting for a dialect, so let’s talk the way we really talk, without the ‘dems, doeses and deses. We don’t talk like that. Maybe we did 50 years ago, but not now.”
With contributions from drama critics and singer Imelda May, Freeman will also delve into Pearl’s encounters with racism, her friendships with Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford, and, finally, her death in 1990.
And remember, even if you’re not a Pearl Bailey fan then it’ll be worth listening to: this is Morgan Freeman’s voice we’re talking about.
The Raw Pearl Bailey is on BBC Radio 2, Monday 2nd April, 10pm