Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee Artistfacts

  • May 26, 1920 - January 21, 2002
  • Born Norma Dolores Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, she first sang professionally over KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota. While performing on a local radio station, the program director suggested the young singer change her name to Peggy Lee.
  • After minor radio and club stints, Lee's big break came in 1941 when Benny Goodman hired her to be the girl singer in his band.
  • Lee voiced four different characters in Disney's 1955 movie Lady and the Tramp: Darling, Peg, and both the Siamese cats. She also wrote songs for the film.
  • Peggy Lee was nominated for an Oscar for her role as an alcoholic blues singer in the 1955 movie Pete Kelly's Blues.
  • She was physically abused by her stepmother as a child, an experience Lee later memorialized in the 1983 calypso number "One Beating a Day."
  • "One Beating a Day" was one of 22 songs Lee co-wrote for the autobiographical musical Peg. Her Broadway debut in 1983 at the age of 62, it was one of the few projects in the star's life that was not a success.
  • A control freak, her employees once quit en masse by leaving a letter that read, "Dear Miss Lee, F--- you. The staff."
  • Porcine Muppets puppet 'Miss Piggy Lee,' a stylish self-assured blonde with a sense of romance, was modeled on Lee. The 'Lee' surname was dropped after Peggy threatened to sue.
  • The Beatles' cover of the 1957 show tune "Till There Was You" was based on Lee's version. Seventeen years later, Paul McCartney wrote, produced and arranged her single "Let's Love."
  • The Dutch rock band Golden Earring took their name from Peggy Lee's 1948 hit song "Golden Earrings."
  • Serbian dance producer Gramophonedzie built his 2009 hit song "Why Don't You" around a sample from Peggy Lee's 1942 million-selling take on the Kansas Joe McCoy 1930s blues number, "Why Don't You Do Right?."
  • Peggy Lee did something few of her fellow mid-20th century male singers ever attempted: she wrote songs.

    She penned them for herself (her biggest chart hit, "Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)," written by her and her husband Dave Barbour, spent nine weeks at #1 on Billboard's Best Sellers chart in 1947).

    She also penned them for other artists, including co-composing all the original songs for the 1955 Disney movie Lady and the Tramp.

    Lee wrote or co-wrote over 270 songs in total. Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Barry Manilow have all recorded her compositions.


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