Merman.jpg
Portrait by: Rosemarie Sloat (born 1929), Oil and acrylic on canvas, 1971, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ethel Merman.

In 1930 the George Gershwin musical Girl Crazy opened on Broadway, and late in the first act an unknown singer started belting out "I Got Rhythm." Her name was Ethel Merman, and the audience was mesmerized. By the time the applause died, it was clear that a new star had been born. Over the next several decades, Merman's booming voice and brassy style were the main attraction of some of Broadway's most celebrated musicals, including Anything Goes , Call Me Madam , and Gypsy .

Merman once said of her singing, "I just stand up and holler." And holler she did. "You better write her a good lyric," songwriter Irving Berlin warned, because "the guy in the last row of the second balcony is going to hear every syllable."

Here Merman is dressed for her role as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun , a show that included what became her trademark song, "There's No Business Like Show Business." The picture was used on the album jacket of a recording of the songs from that musical.