Kate Smith, the original, not the Charlie’s angel…
As far as The Beatles’ milieu goes, I’ve yet to see a campier, stranger tribute than this April 1975 collaboration on the Cher variety show. (And this is edited to death—- it was actually longer!) Tina Turner had just played the Acid Queen in Tommy, furthering her reputation as an intense, artistic performer. Sonny and Cher had split up a year ago, and while Sonny’s variety show floundered, Cher’s show was incredibly well-received.
The odd one out here is Kate Smith, the sturdy, matronly symbol of wholesome American resilience, famous for canonizing “God Bless America” in the 1940s. Kate went through a major re-vamp in the 1970s—one of the weirdest public transformations from wholesome to glitzy I’ve ever seen. (Fun fact: Woody Guthrie actually wrote “This Land is Your Land” as a bitter response to Smith’s inescapably popular tune, which he found schmaltzy. Bonus fun fact: “God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, who changed his name from “Israel Isidore Baline,” supposedly to evade American antisemitism. God Bless America, indeed!)
Frankly, I think it’s damn cool that Kate Smith came back as a groovy granny glamour-puss, and that the big 1970s stars embraced her return to pop culture. To this day, Kate Smith remains a lesser-obvious choice for drag queens looking for an esoteric challenge. I guess these three seemingly disparate chanteuses have a common thread, after all!