The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee
By Peter Richmond
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805073836, 464pp.)
Publication Date: March 21, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The first major biography of the legendary singer--an enthralling account of a charismatic artist moving through the greatest, most glamorous
era of American music
"I learned courage from Buddha, Jesus, Lincoln, and Mr. Cary Grant." So said Peggy Lee, the North Dakota girl who sang like she'd just stepped out of Harlem. Einstein adored her; Duke Ellington dubbed her "the Queen." With her platinum cool and inimitable whisper she sold twenty million records, made more money than Mickey Mantle, and along with pals Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby presided over music's greatest generation. Yet beneath the diamonds she was still Norma Delores Egstrom, insecure and always looking for acceptance.
Drawing on exclusive interviews and new information, Peter Richmond delivers a complex, compelling portrait of an artist and an era that begins with a girl plagued by loss, her father's alcoholism, and her stepmother's abuse. One day she gets on a train hoping her music will lead her someplace better. It does--to a new town and a new name; to cities and clubs where a gallery of brilliant innovators are ushering in a brand-new beat; to four marriages, a daughter, Broadway, Vegas, and finally Hollywood. Richmond traces how Peggy rose, right along with jazz itself, becoming an unstoppable hit-maker ("Fever," "Mañana," "Is That All There Is?"). We see not only how this unforgettable star changed the rhythms of music, but also how--with her drive to create, compose, and perform--she became an artist whose style influenced k.d. lang, Nora Jones, and Diana Krall.
Fever brings the lady alive again--and makes her swing.
Peter Richmond has been an award-winning reporter and feature writer for GQ magazine for two decades. He has covered everything from Rosemary Clooney to sports, and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone. He has appeared many times on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He lives in Dutchess County, New York.
Fever is " a very engaging book presented with as much style and aplomb as Lee delivered in her many classic songs. The legendary Ellington, with whom Lee wrote the delightful ''I'm Gonna Go Fishin'," once said, ''If I'm the Duke, man, Peggy Lee is Queen." With ''Fever," she finally gets an elegantly written biography fit for royalty." --Boston Globe In Fever, Richmond "manages both candor and respect. This is the rare bio of a golden-age entertainer that doesn't skimp on scandal but is quadruply concerned with conveying musical brilliance. You won't be left asking, "Is that all there is?" A-" --Entertainment Weekly "Affectionate, readable biography . . . Richmond writes smoothly and researches diligently . . . For those who only know Peggy Lee as the voice behind the Siamese cats in Disney's Lady and the Tramp, Richmond's biography is a gorgeous, eye-opening corrective. Fever is a perfect title for music lovers this spring."--Cleveland Plain Dealer "American popular culture is filled with people who claim to have reinvented themselves. North Dakota's Norma Egstrom puts most such claimants to shame. She invented Peggy Lee with Dickensian precision, not to mention a voice that could cool down a volcano. In this definitive biography, Peter Richmond honors her story with equal precision, and with a generosity and insight that had me cheering her onward, every step of the way."--Gary Giddins, author of Natural Selection and Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams
"A book on Peggy Lee? It's high time!"--Elaine Stritch
"Peter Richmond's lovely and big-hearted biography of Peggy Lee is not only chockfull of fascinating jazz stories, it is scintillatingly insightful about the fate and destiny of a small-town girl and the dreams that came true to claim her."--Wil Haygood, author of In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.
"At long last there's a full-length biography of one of American music's most crucial cultural icons. I learned a lot I didn't know about Peggy Lee in this well-researched volume, and I am certain that anybody who cares about this great singer, or about American music in general, will find it essential reading."--Will Friedwald, author of Sinatra! The Song is You: A Singer's Art