Peggy Lee (Norma Deloris Egstrom)

Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee

Singer, Songwriter and Actress. Best remembered for songs “Fever,” “Lover,” “Big Spender,” and a host of other songs. Born Norma Dolores Egstrom, her mother died when she was 4, and her father, a railroad station agent, remarried, but later abandoned the new family, leaving Peggy with her stepmother, who physically abused her. Peggy would develop her singing as a means of escape, and at age 14, she began singing at local PTA meetings for 50 cents a night. While singing as a teenager on a local radio station in Fargo, the program director suggested she change her name to Peggy Lee. Her big break came when Benny Goodman hired her to sing with his orchestra after hearing her perform. She quickly shot to stardom with the song, “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and she went on to record such songs as “Fever,” “Lover”, “Golden Earrings” and “Is that all there is?” Much of her singing was with Big Bands, and her 1989 album, “Peggy Sings the Blues” was nominated for a Grammy. A prolific songwriter, she wrote for such great musicians as Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, and Quincy Jones. In 1990, she won the Pied Piper Award, from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Trying her hand at acting in the late 1940s with “Midnight Serenade” (1947), she won an Academy Award nomination for her role as the hard-drinking singer, Rose, in “Pete Kelly’s Blues” (1955). She also voiced the vocals for four characters in the Disney film “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), including: Darling, Peg, and the two Siamese Cats, Si and Am, but these were virtually her last movies. Thirty-six years later, she won $2.3 million from Disney over royalties from the Videocassette sales of the movie, as her contract with Disney had barred the sale of movie “transcriptions” without her consent. Her later years were marked with lawsuits and medical ailments. In 1976, she had a near-fatal fall, a second serious fall in 1987, and in early 1985, underwent four angioplasties (surgery in which a balloon is used to open clogged arteries in her heart), and later double-bypass heart surgery. Confined to a wheelchair in the late-1980s, by the 1990s, she was suffering from diabetes and another stroke. She was married four times, each time ending in divorce, and had one child, a daughter, Nicki, with her first husband, guitarist David Barbour. She died in 2002 of a heart attack. She was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992. She has a rose, “the Peggy Lee,” named for her; it is pink with a touch of peach color.

Born

  • May, 26, 1920
  • Jamestown, North Dakota

Died

  • January, 21, 2002
  • Bel Air, Los Angeles

Cause of Death

  • died of complications from diabetes and a heart attack

Cemetery

  • Westwood Memorial Park
  • Los Angeles, California

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