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Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee's alluring tone, distinctive delivery, breadth of material, and ability to write many of her own songs made her one of the most captivating artists of the vocal era, from her breakthrough on the Benny Goodman hit "Why Don't You Do Right" to her many solo successes, singles including "Mañana," "Lover" and "Fever" that showed her bewitching vocal power, a balance between sultry swing and impeccable musicianship.

Born Norma Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, she suffered the death of her mother at the age of four and endured a difficult stepmother after her father remarried. Given her sense of swing by listening to Count Basie on the radio, she taught herself to sing and made her radio debut at the age of 14. She made the jump to Fargo (where she was christened Peggy Lee), then to Minneapolis and St. Louis to sing with a regional band. Lee twice journeyed to Hollywood to make her fortune, but returned unsuccessful from both trips.

She finally got her big break in 1941, when a vocal group she worked with began appearing at a club in Chicago. While there, she was heard by Benny Goodman, whose regular vocalist Helen Forrest was about to leave his band. Lee recorded with Goodman just a few days later, debuting with the popular "Elmer's Tune" despite a good deal of nerves. That same year, several songs became commercial successes including "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" and "Winter Weather." In 1943, "Why Don't You Do Right" became her first major hit, but she left the Goodman band (and the music industry altogether) later that year after marrying Goodman's guitarist, Dave Barbour.

After just over a year of domestic life, Peggy Lee returned to music, first as part of an all-star jazz album. Then, in late 1945, Capitol signed her to a solo contract and she hit the charts with her first shot, "Waitin' for the Train to Come In." Lee continued to score during the late '40s, with over two dozen chart entries before the end of the decade, including "It's a Good Day," "Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)" -- the most popular song of 1948 -- and "I Don't Know Enough About You." Many of her singles were done in conjunction with Barbour, her frequent writing and recording partner.

After moving to Decca in 1952, Peggy Lee scored with the single "Lover" and an LP, Songs From Pete Kelly's Blues recorded with Ella Fitzgerald (both singers also made appearances in the film). She spent only five years at Decca however, before moving back to Capitol. There, she distinguished herself through recording a wide variety of material, including songs -- and occasionally, entire LPs -- influenced by the blues, Latin and cabaret as well as pop. Lee also used many different settings, like an orchestra conducted by none other than Frank Sinatra for 1957's The Man I Love, the George Shearing Quintet for 1959's live appearance Beauty and the Beat, Quincey Jones as arranger and conductor for 1961's If You Go, and arrangements by Benny Carter on 1963's Mink Jazz. Barbour's problems with alcoholism ended their marriage, though they remained good friends until his death in 1965.

Peggy Lee was an early advocate of rock and made a quick transition into rock-oriented material. Given her depth and open mind for great songs no matter the source, it wasn't much of a surprise that she sounded quite comfortable covering the more song-oriented end of late-'60s rock, including great choices by Jimmy Webb, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Burt Bacharach, Randy Newman, Goffin & King and John Sebastian. She nearly brushed the Top Ten in 1969 with Leiber & Stoller's "Is That All There Is?" She continued recording contemporary material until 1972's Norma Deloris Egstrom From Jamestown, North Dakota brought her back to her roots. It was her last LP for Capitol, however. Lee recorded single LPs for Atlantic, A&M, Polydor UK and DRG before effectively retiring at the beginning of the 1980s. She returned in 1988 with two LPs for Music Masters that revisited her earlier successes. Her last album, Moments Like This, was recorded in 1992 for Chesky. Her voice was effectively silenced after a 1998 stroke, and she died of a heart attack at her Bel Air home in early 2002. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

She jammed.
jonley12
Love Peggy, But pity about the song! Probably her worst recording.
Listen to her on deed I do or We'll Meet again with Goodman.
richrf01
She has that swing.
Returned unsuccessful from Hollywood?? :puzzled: Where is the mention of Lady & the Tramp-? She did voices & wrote all the music.
She made alot of records. Her career lasted what, forty years or more and she must have averaged at least two albums a year and they were ALL wonderful. She may be gone, but she is NOT forgotten!
did peggy lee record Fever?
Classy, sexy and natural. REAL
jcastcars
LOVE THECLASS SINGERS,, NOT AROUND ANYMORE!! JOE C
Damn I love Peggy. Such s great singer and songwriter.
Love her sultry voice!
ablefton
I still remember her acting in the film, Pete Kelly's Blues, (where she was nominated for an Academy Award), and her rendering of the Rainbow Song...which can be found here: http://www.y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = j 9 H B l Z f 3 G o 4 ; although it's jazzed-up. In the film she had been abused and was in a mental institution where she sang it with great melancholy. Great scene. Talented woman...no doubt!!
I grew hearing Peggy Lee coming out of the hi-fi as a kid. My Dad used to sing along to her music as he danced my Mom around the kitchen floor. Peggy Lee's voice and style was one of a kind. I remember watching her singing on tv and she was a blonde bombshell. Even if you heard the song before by another artist she would make it brand new. I was amazed by how long she could hold a note and run a line of lyrics without taking a breath. She was just captivating!
dj.donajean
Talented singer!
love her!!
orlandoeisau r a
conanmcc:
I wish! but, as we all can see, the fad these days are tecno music. it started subtly w/ lady gaga (see Paparazzi and Bad Romance) and progresed w/ David Ghuetta and is in its height w/ Deadmau5. but i sincerely wish music would turn over to the 30s,40s,50s, and even maybe the early 60s. It'd be nice.
i sense a musical revolution swinging back to the 40's and 50's
leftbrainres t r i c t i o n
Pure love for this little lady <3
one of my all-time best-loved female voices...... . . P e g g y Lee was a "sage" of sultry, seasoned, sensational Love & Life Songs
treepoetry
Ain't I so?....
treepoetry
Sleek...sens u a l . . . t h e other side of sunshine.
I Love her!
SrSlickZ here (Mud as I called her; e.g.; Mudder (mother); she liked "Is that all there is?"....I used to keep a Seeburg or Wurlitzer around the house and kept that song on D-1 (as in depressing). It became a family get-together tradition (Xmas, T-givg,etc). . . i f a serving plate got low,one of the kids would go run to the juke box & push D-1 !

To this day I have her CD on my audio jukebox, #17, Mud's birth year.
fallsintheat t i c
a absolute performer in every way...Thank You Peggy.
she had a beatiful voice and I will always remember her as my one of the first artists that inspired me into writting music.Lourde s .
OBI......... . S H E AS A VOICE LIKE FLOATING WINDS ....JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES AND DRIFT.
bbspitz
georgette dee
bbspitz
marlene deitrich
I first became of aware of Peggy Lee from a Target commercial during Christmas time. She was singing "Sweet Happy Life" but I don't see that song here anywhere. I've since come to like many of her other songs.
I heard "Fever" when I was kid listeing to my mother's records....I ' v e been a huge fan of female singers ever since...
play black coffee! can't get enough! peggy lee 1st artist i saw in person when i was 11 yrs. old,around 1947. am now 71yrs. old! Love her!
"I Love Being Here With you"....grea t song. Used it in a music mix at my wedding reception.
"Is that all there is?"
"Fever" is the greatest torch song of all times, and who doesn't connect with "Is That All There Is"?
On a personal note, Peggy was a recovering alcoholic. She lived to 82. I'm trying to follow in her footsteps.
Sleep well, Peggy. You are All There Is.
"Fever" is for me the best
Absolutely unique!
Fever and Manana will always remind me of Peggy's versitility!
Unique,sexy, s m o o t h , a n d ineffable. How could you not love her.
I like her special way to swing
bigdaddie7
AGELESS ! LOVE YOU PEGGY
i love it
vbesmay2007
is there a recording of I Love the Way You're Breaking My Heart??? Where can i find it?
lilmar007
Her voice and style were different then the rest. She had that specail something that made her stand out and her songs memorale. She was good! Love all her songs.

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