One of the most famous songs in the Decadent Diva Premiere is for my dear friend Jon Burgin. Jon remembered watching Peggy Lee many times in NYC clubs and has shared many wonderful memories of her with me. Like Jon there are many audience members who Peggy Lee entranced for over half a century. Starting with her first big break in Benny Goodman’s band in 1941,with hits including ‘Fever’, ‘Manana’, ‘It’s a Good Day’ and ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’ her sultry swing-beat style secured her a place Top Ten in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. A true perfectionist, she became a successful songwriter, lyricist, arranger and actress, performing with Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole.
Peggy Lee is the most remembered today because of the internationally recognized signature song Fever. The song was a rhythm and blues hit for Little Willie John that crossed over and became a pop standard after being transformed, with additional lyrics.,
Lee’s résumé extends beyond a successful singing career. She also wrote songs for jazz greats like Duke Ellington (who dubbed her “The Queen”), Johnny Mercer and Quincy Jones, and she tried her luck in Hollywood, winning an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues. She also appeared on Broadway in 1983, co-writing 22 songs for her autobiographical musical Peg at age 62.
Although Lee’s life was not all glitter and glamour– Peggy Lee’s life started off as a Dickensian nightmare – the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepmother is brutal in the extreme (in one instance, she is beaten after an appendectomy, tearing her sutures). That she lived to be an adult, much less the legend that she is today, is nothing short of miraculous , all four of her marriages failed, and she was diabetic–Lee proved to be an incredibly talented survivor. The quote above talks of her three marriages.
She was the first of the “old guard” to recognize this new genre, as is evident in her recordings of the Beatles, Randy Newman, Carole King, James Taylor and other up-and-coming songwriters. From 1957 until her final disc for the company in 1972, she routinely produced a steady stream of two or three albums per year which usually included standards (often arranged in a style quite different from the original), her own compositions, and material from young artists.
Welcome Peggy to Decadent Divas!!!