Peggy Lee, whose sultry singing voice was considered to be the epitome of pop jazz sophistication, died Monday, January 21 in Los Angeles. She was 81. Miss Lee died at her Bel Air home.
In recent years she surmounted many medical problems to continue performing. In 1998 she suffered a stroke that left her bedridden.
Miss Lee was billed throughout most of her career, which spanned about 60 years, as Miss Peggy Lee (and, in fact, insisted on it). In the golden age of big bands she was a singer of renown with Benny Goodman’s orchestra and she went on to become a legendary night club singer, a prolific recording artist, a successful songwriter and an actress skillful enough to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Miss Lee made more than 700 recordings and 59 albums. Her own favorite album, “The Man I Love,” was recorded in 1957 with arrangements by Nelson Riddle and an orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra. Mr. Sinatra was so intimately involved in the album that he arranged for menthol to be put in Miss Lee’s eyes in order to get a misty look in her cover photograph.
She is credited with having a hand in writing more than 200 songs, in most cases as a lyricist. Probably her best-known song was her 1958 hit “Fever” which was originally a hit for Little Willie John, and was also a hit for Elvis.