Pink Martini Releases Diller Recording Of ‘Smile’

Music collective Pink Martini has released the last song Phyllis Diller recorded, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” as a fitting tribute to her memory.

The voice of the late comedian is immediately recognizable on the recording, perhaps a little more wizened, but still strong and full of emotion.

Photo: AP Photo
In this October 1969 file photo, Comedian Phyllis Diller poses for a portrait.

Diller died Monday in Los Angeles at age 95. The song was recorded last February by Pink Martini bandleader Thomas Lauderdale for the Portland, Ore., collective’s next album.

It’s available for listening on YouTube and Soundcloud.

Lauderdale says he may add strings and a clarinet to the simple piano-and-voice recording before the album, “Get Happy,” comes out next spring.

“But as it now stands I love it,” Lauderdale said. “I think it has a lot of heart. I think it represents her in a beautiful and comforting and lovely way, and respectful. And I guess I just feel entirely lucky and honored to have these brief moments with her. Everybody seems to have a Phyllis Diller, and I feel just lucky to have had a small moment with her.”


Lauderdale met Diller through a mutual friend while in Los Angeles for New Year’s Eve concerts. He asked Diller, who had formal music training in her youth, if she would be interested in recording a song. To his surprise she said yes and he returned a month later with recording engineer Dave Friedlander. They set up a studio in her living room and two hours later had the song.

“She had a great time,” Lauderdale said. “She was a perfectionist. Every time she didn’t get a phrase just as she wanted it, she went right back to redo it. So it required no coaching at all from me. She did it all on her own.”