Lee, Peggy

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lee, Peggy

Peggy Lee, 1920–2002, American singer and songwriter, b. Jamestown, N.D., as Norma Deloris Egstrom. Lee became famous for her singular voice—sexy, subtle, simultaneously smoky and cool—and her unique jazz-inflected interpretations of popular tunes. She began singing as a teenager and hit the big time in 1941 when Benny Goodman hired her. She scored her first big hit in 1942 with "Why Don't You Do Right?" Leaving Goodman's band in 1943, she became a solo act and cowrote (with husband Dave Barbour) and performed a number of popular songs including "It's a Good Day" (1947) and the 1948 chart-topper "Mañana." Lee wrote or cowrote more than 200 songs and recorded more than 600, among them the sultry "Fever" (1958) and "Is That All There Is?" (1969), her late-career anthem. Lee was in several films, notably acting in The Jazz Singer (1952) and Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), voiced such animated features as The Lady and the Tramp (1955), appeared on numerous television programs, and continued to perform into the 1990s.

See her autobiography (1989, rev. ed. 2002); chronology by R. Strom (2005); biography by P. Richmond (2006).

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