By Michael Baadke
Born Ethel Agnes Zimmerman in New York City, on Jan. 16, 1908, brassy Broadway singer Ethel Merman found stardom in her earliest days on stage.
After her high school graduation she worked as a secretary, but she also sang at nightclubs and private parties. She was discovered singing at a Brooklyn theater, won an audition with George Gershwin, and was singing on Broadway in Girl Crazy at age 21, wowing the audience with her rendition of I Got Rhythm.
She starred in more than a dozen musicals, including Anything Goes in 1934, Annie Get Your Gun in 1946, and Gypsy in 1959. Her powerful vocals made hits of songs such as Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You and You’re the Top, and Irving Berlin’s There’s No Business Like Show Business, which became her theme song.
She also won four Tony Awards, among them a special Tony in 1972 for her lifetime of achievement.
Ethel Merman was married four times and had two children: a daughter and a son. Merman died in 1984 and was honored on a 29¢ commemorative stamp issued Sept. 1, 1994, in the American Music series (Scott 2853).