Man. I planned to do a special Afrobella Christmas post, and the day got swept away in a whirlwind of gifts and family phone calls. But I read this news and it knocked the wind out of my sails. The legendary Eartha Kitt has passed away at the age of 81, succumbing to a long battle with colon cancer.
In her heyday, Eartha Kitt was a force of nature, a unique musical presence, the ultimate sex kitten. And behind the slinky, cartoonish persona and the unique voice, she was a human rights activist who was unafraid of speaking truth to power. The Washington Post has a phenomenal obit that tells of an expensive lunch with Kitt that must have been one of the most magnificent and surreal moments in that reporter’s life.
I wrote a tribute to Eartha in 2006, as part of my Beautifully Aging Bellas series. I said then, “It’s easy to get caught up in the fantastic cartoonishness of Eartha, and forget how ridiculously talented she is.” Eartha Kitt embraced her image. She owned her image. But I hope this clip of her performing the definitive version of Santa, Baby, shines a brighter light on her talent. She was a unique and amazing singer with a delivery that’s hard to match.
Eartha’s version of C’est Si Bon was both a send-up and a celebration of her sex kitten image. I absolutely love it. Check out how effortlessly fly and self-possessed she is.
True story – I’ve been trying to perfect that purr for years. I can’t even roll my r’s. Pathetic. But Eartha made it look so easy.
This clip of her performing I Want To Be Evil is one of my very favorites, for its sheer intensity. Eartha gave raw emotion in every performance. She was of that era of performers who gave good face, as they say — strong actresses like Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford. Eartha proves she could stand toe to toe with the best of them in just the performance of this song.
Beautiful, brave, funny, and fierce — Eartha Kitt was an inspiration to me and many an afrobella. To say she’ll be missed is an understatement. And to lose a legend like her on Christmas Day makes for a bittersweet holiday indeed.
Batman? Boomerang? Or one of her memorable songs – share your favorite Eartha Kitt moment with me!