A Birthday Salute to A Pioneering ‘Sister’
Think of one of Dean Martin‘s all-girl ensembles like The Golddiggers or The Dingaling Sisters and probably the last type of song you would imagine them singing is one with a message of female empowerment. After all, back in the early ’70s, a handful of feminists were so outraged by what they considered to be the sexist image of The Golds and The Dings that they occasionally took to picketing NBC’s Burbank studios — much to the delight of Producer Greg Garrison, who, as Lee Hale notes in his book Backstage At The Dean Martin Show, loved all the publicity and attention that the protests drew to the program.
Ironically, if those offended by the portrayal of the ladies on Dean’s show had tuned in to the episode airing the night of December 14, 1972, they would have witnessed The Dingalings perform a very dignified cover version of a popular hit that had not only risen to the top of the charts in the previous 6 months, but also become the de facto anthem of the burgeoning women’s liberation movement: Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”.
Handling lead vocal on The Dings’ rendition was someone who was a trailblazer in her own right before, during, and after her tenure on Dean’s show — JAYNE KENNEDY. She had been the first African-American to win the title of Miss Ohio before being chosen one of the semi-finalists in the Miss USA pageant, and was the first African-American woman signed as a regular singer-dancer on Dean’s series. In time, she would become the first woman of color to co-host a network sports series — The NFL Today on CBS — and the first to release her own line of exercise videos. Along the way, she also appeared in numerous movie and TV roles, served as a commercial spokeswoman, worked on behalf of many charitable causes, and has long been a devoted wife and mother.
As the song goes: She can do anything…She is Woman.
With today being her birthday, what we’d like to do for Jayne Kennedy is wish her a very Happy, Healthy Birthday, and Many, Many More.
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