Songwriter's Corner|

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Peggy Lee (1920-2002), known for such hits as “Fever” and “Is That All There Is,” demonstrated an alluring command over an audience with her sultry voice and precise stagecraft. Correspondent Mo Rocca talks with biographer Peter Richmond and with Lee’s granddaughter, Holly Foster-Wells, about the singer’s artistry, and her rise from a painful childhood in North Dakota, to becoming a leading writer and vocalist of jazz, pop and torch songs.


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Peggy Lee (General Artists Corporation (management)) – Did you know that she wrote a lot of the music for Disney’s Lady & The Tramp? Norma Deloris Egstrom (81) (5/26/1920 – 1/21/2002), known professionally as Peggy Lee, was an American jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress, over a career spanning seven decades. From her beginning as a vocalist on local radio to singing with Benny Goodman’s big band, Lee created a sophisticated persona, writing music for films, acting, and recording conceptual record albums combining poetry and music.

Lee recorded over 1,100 masters and composed over 270 songs.
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In 1948, Lee joined vocalists Perry Como and Jo Stafford as a host of the NBC Radio musical program The Chesterfield Supper Club. She was a regular on The Jimmy Durante Show and appeared frequently on Bing Crosby’s radio shows during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Her relationship with Capitol spanned almost three decades aside from a brief detour (1952–1956) at Decca. For that label, she recorded Black Coffee and had hit singles such as “Lover” and “Mister Wonderful”.

In 1958, she recorded her own version of “Fever” by Little Willie John, written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport,. Lee created a new arrangement for the song, and added lyrics (“Romeo loved Juliet”, “Captain Smith and Pocahontas”), which she neglected to copyright. Her new version of “Fever” was a hit, and was nominated in three categories at the First Annual Grammy Awards in 1959, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

While Lee was in London for a 1970 engagement at Royal Albert Hall, she invited Paul and Linda McCartney to dinner at The Dorchester. At the dinner, the couple gifted Lee with a song they had written entitled, “Let’s Love”. In July 1974, with Paul McCartney producing, Lee recorded the song at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and it became the title track for her 40th album, her first and only on Atlantic Records.
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Lee provided speaking and singing voices for several characters in the Disney movie Lady and the Tramp (1955), playing the human Darling, the dog Peg, and the two Siamese cats, Si and Am. She also co-wrote, with Sonny Burke all of the original songs for the film, including “He’s A Tramp”, “Bella Notte”, “La La Lu”, “The Siamese Cat Song”, and “Peace on Earth”. In 1987, when Lady and the Tramp was released on VHS, Lee sought performance and song royalties on the video sales. When Disney refused to pay, she filed a lawsuit in 1988. After a prolonged legal battle, in 1992, Lee was awarded $2.3 million for breach of contract, plus $500,000 for unjust enrichment, $600,000 for illegal use of Lee’s voice and $400,000 for the use of her name.
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Lee is often cited as the inspiration for the Margarita cocktail. In 1948, after a trip to Mexico, she and her husband ventured into the Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. She requested a drink similar to one she had in Mexico, and the head bartender, Santos Cruz, created the Margarita, and named it after the Spanish version of Peggy’s name.
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The designer of the Miss Piggy Muppet, Bonnie Erickson… used the singer as inspiration for the Miss Piggy character in 1974. Originally called Miss Piggy Lee, her name was shortened to Miss Piggy when the Muppet gained fame.
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In 2020, the ASCAP Foundation, along with Lee’s family, established the annual Peggy Lee Songwriter Award. The inaugural award went to Michael Blum and Jenna Lotti for their song, “Fake ID”.
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