Ethel Merman (1908-1984), born Ethel Agnes Zimmerman, had a career that went all the way back to the days of Vaudeville. Her first big-time performances, in fact, were on Broadway in 1930. By the time she left Broadway in 1959, she was already a show biz veteran. She appeared in movie musicals with Bing Crosby. She cut her teeth singing the tunes of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. She had an operatic voice that could project to the back rows of a large theater without the need of a microphone, nailing each and every note with precision.
And, sadly, it is in this context that five years before she died, the septuagenarian dropped this bombshell of an album on the public: “The Ethel Merman Disco Album.” Here, Ethel sings some of her all-time Broadway smash hits, set to a Disco beat. Imagine getting down and funky to: “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, or George and Ira Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”. Or Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out of You”. It is Disco ad absurdum, sung by your grandma.
Disco did not live long past the 1979 release date of this record. It was pretty much the final nail in Disco’s coffin. Thank you, Ethel. Thank you. Thank you.
I know that no one asked for this, but here is a comparison between the original “There’s no Business Like Show Business” and the disco version:
[media id=75 width=400 height=300]
[media id=76 width=400 height=300]
Merman promotes her album on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:
[media id=77 width=400 height=300]
There are Broadway divas into disco, and there are comedians that are into Rap. Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) is known best for his “No Respect” standup sketch.
Not many comedians who get “no respect” get their trademark paraphenalia (a white shirt and red tie in this case) enshrined at the Smithsonian Institute.
This 1983 album, “Rappin’ Rodney” was the followup to his “No Respect” album. This album was released to lukewarm reviews. His rap parody is clueless in hindsight, but in its day it might have fetched him a few laughs.