Norma Deloris Egstrom of Jamestown, North Dakota, was born in 1920, but as Peggy Lee she blazed a trail like few others in American popular music. A triple threat singer/songwriter/actress, Lee had a long recording career spanning over fifty years. Her first No. 1 was scored in 1942 and her final track was released in 1995, seven years before her death in 2002. She was an Academy Award-nominated actress (Pete Kelly’s Blues) and a talented songwriter whose collaborators included Harold Arlen, Cy Coleman, Duke Ellington and Lalo Schifrin. Lee was also a fierce advocate of artists’ rights, winning a highly-publicized lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company over home video exploitation of Lady and the Tramp, the 1955 film for which she supplied songs (including the sultry “He’s a Tramp,” romantic “Bella Notte” and delightful “Siamese Cat Song”) and the voice of – who else? – Peg. EMI/Capitol has just announced a major digital campaign celebrating what would have been Lee’s 91st birthday, introducing 22 albums to the digital domain.
These albums, available from all digital service providers, include a number of titles out-of-print on CD. Much of Lee’s Capitol catalogue has previously been released on CD from Capitol in America, EMI in the U.K., DRG, and the much-missed Collectors’ Choice Music label. The albums in this campaign range from 1992 to 2002, with that last title (Peggy Lee at Basin Street East: The Unreleased Show) a first-time issue of a concert recorded in 1961. The original LP drawn from that concert, Basin Street East Proudly Presents Peggy Lee, is also among this batch of titles.
Lee’s first release as a solo artist on Capitol was in 1945; she remained at the Tower until 1972, absent only for a brief stretch at Decca between 1952 and 1957. Lee was a femme fatale, for sure, with a husky and knowing tone. Her hit “Fever,” a canny reworking of the Otis Blackwell-penned tune which was an R&B hit for Little Willie John, remains a summation of the distinct Peggy Lee sound. Despite an ambitious jazz sensibility that saw her through collaborations with George Shearing, Benny Carter and others, Lee also embraced the pop/rock songbook in the 1960s and 1970s, reinventing songs by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Bread and The Kinks. Paul McCartney even wrote and produced 1974’s “Let’s Love” for Peggy, which turned out to be her 70th and final chart hit.
Hit the jump for more details including the complete list of albums in this collection!
A high point of her late career at Capitol is 1969’s “Is That All There Is?,” which only Lee could delivered so blithely and believably. Leiber and Stoller’s remarkable song was performed by Lee to an eerie, atmospheric arrangement by Randy Newman on the album of the same name. Like Lee, he knew a great song when he heard it! Her final album for Capitol, 1972’s Norma Deloris Engstrom From Jamestown, North Dakota is presented in its original LP form, a contrast from later reissues which used some alternate takes. This LP offers Lesley Duncan’s “Love Song,” and a Leon Russell pair of “Superstar” and “A Song For You” alongside standards such as “The More I See You” and the appropriate album closer, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Capitol’s digital Peggy Lee catalogue is available now! These albums are but the tip of the iceberg, but there’s no bad place to start exploring the musical legacy of Miss Peggy Lee.
- I Like Men! (1959)
- All Aglow Again (1960)
- Pretty Eyes (1960)
- If You Go (1961)
- Basin Street East Proudly Presents Peggy Lee (1961)
- Bewitching Lee (1962)
- I’m A Woman (1963)
- In Love Again! (1964)
- In The Name Of Love (1964)
- Pass Me By (1965)
- That Was Then—This Is Now! (1965)
- Guitars A La Lee (1966)
- Big $pender (1966)
- Extra Special! (1967)
- Somethin’ Groovy! (1967)
- A Natural Woman (1969)
- Is That All There Is? (1969)
- Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
- Make It With You (1970)
- Where Did They Go (1971)
- Norma Deloris Egstrom From Jamestown, North Dakota (1972)
- Peggy Lee at Basin Street East: The Unreleased Show (2002)