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Peggy Lee Biography


Home > Music > L > Lee, Peggy > Biography


Birth Name: Norma Deloris Egstrom
Born: 1920/05/26
Birth Place: Jamestown, North Dakota, U.S.
Died: 2002/01/21
Years Active: 1941–1974 (recording career), 1941–2000 (as a musician)
Genres: Traditional Pop, Jazz


Peggy Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota on May 26, 1920, and was a jazz and pop singer, songwriter and actress. Lee got her start singing at a local radio station, which lead to a gig with Benny Goodman's big band, and a solo career. Lee evolved into multi-talented artist and performer, composing music for feature films, acting, and writing and releasing her own music.

Lee was drawn to singing and performing at an early age and got her first singing gig just out of high school on KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota. At the age of 17, Lee headed to Los Angeles to further her career, but ended up in Chicago where she was discovered by bandleader Benny Goodman. Lee began to sing with Goodman and his band in 1941 and remained with him for two years. 1942 saw Lee land her first #1 hit single, “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place,” which she followed up “Why Don't You Do Right?” in 1941. 1943 saw Lee marry guitarist David Barbour from Goodman’s band. They settled down, had a daughter and Lee steeped away from music for a while. While raising her daughter, Lee still worked as a songwriter for Capitol Records and produced a string of hits, including “I Don't Know Enough About You,” “It's a Good Day” and “Mañana.”

1948 saw Lee take a job with Perry Como and Jo Stafford as a rotating host of the NBC Radio Show, “Chesterfield Supper Club.” Lee left Capitol Records in the early 1950s to work on her radio shows but returned in 1953. Lee remained with Capitol Records for almost three decades, apart from her one short detour at Decca Records from 1952 to 1956, which produced one of Lee's most acclaimed albums, “Black Coffee.”

Lee became an international star due to her multiple talents at both writing hit songs for other artists, working as a presenter on the radio, and recording her own material. Most well-known for her rendition of the song “Fever,” her body of work left an impressive legacy. Lee is regarded as one of the most influential jazz vocalists of all time, and claimed to have been a music mentor to artists such as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Madonna, and Dusty Springfield. Throughout her 60 year career, Lee's music earned her three Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award. Lee continued to perform into the 1990s, although her health had begun to decline due to living with diabetes. In 1999 Lee was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Lee died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 81.