Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Women in Jazz: Peggy Lee

My boyfriend, Rian, is the film curator for the American Jazz Museum.

His job recently had him working with our city's film festival, to showcase rare clips from various jazz artists in history. We attended the screening last week and it was pretty bad-ass.

Through Rian, I've learned a lot about jazz, regarding the history and lesser-known artists.

So, I thought I would highlight a few fabulous female jazz singers in a series.

Our first lady is the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Peggy Lee.

Peggy was born in 1920 in North Dakota.

Having lost her mother when she was four, Peggy suffered a difficult childhood, putting up with an alcoholic father and abusive stepmother.

After graduating, she packed up her bags and moved to Hollywood, desperate to leave her miserable small-town life behind. Unfortunately, it didn't work. After spending months as a waitress, and even a carnival worker, Peggy went home, tail between her legs.

She started singing on a local radio station, which led to offers in other parts of the country. Soon, the 20-year-old beauty found herself traveling the country, playing at small venues.

She was performing in a ritzy Chicago nightclub in 1941 when Benny Goodman, a very famous bandleader, took notice. He asked her to sing in his orchestra, and not long afterwards, they began working in the studio.

She ended up releasing a couple of number one hits which not only sold more than one million copies, but made her an instant household name.

It was during this time that Peggy fell in love with Dave Barbour, a guitarist in Benny's band. The two married in 1943 and had a daughter. Unfortunately, Dave assumed that Peggy would gladly give up her singing career to stay at home and be a dutiful wife and mother.

Peggy obliged to his wishes for a few years, but could not help her itch to continue her career. She wrote songs in her spare time and in 1947, released several more songs that flew to the top of the jazz charts.

Her hunger for success and passion for music could not keep Peggy at home. She ended up divorcing her husband in 1951. Her career skyrocketed. She released numerous number hits, sold millions of albums, and even dabbled into acting.

What separated Peggy from her contemporaries is that during the 1950s, she was one of the only old-school jazz singers to embrace rock and roll. While her peers despised the new musical form, she loved it.

By the late 1950s, her obsessive workload began to take a toll on her health. She continued to record music, produce theater productions, and actively participate in charity work until her death, from diabetes, in 2002.

Here is Peggy's most famous song, Fever:

What do you think of Peggy's style and her music?


Josie said...

I love "Fever" -- she was so fabulous.
xo Josie

Sherin said...

I really want to get into retro jazz! It's such a great genre. She sounds great. Can't wait to listen to some more of here.

The Dainty Dolls House said...

Awesome, she was fabulous!! And still is :) xx

J. said...

I love "Fever," I didn't realize it was Peggy Lee. I also didn't realize she was a jazz singer...I guess I always thought she was into rock and roll. Thanks for the history lesson!

yiqin; said...

so chic

Oh to Be a Muse said...

You always feature these women who have such struggles in life, but who are also super talented in various ways. I think Peggy Lee lived a great life as a jazz musician. And yea, I didn't know the song "Fever" was her song either.

Bonnie said...

That is so awesome that he gets to work with such history. I'm sure you love it! It's always nice when the men in our lives can be used for educational purposes.
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

David Macaulay said...

Great post - I always learn stuff from your posts. Rian has a bit of a cool job. Thought you might like the piece on Morrissey; call it a hunch.

Couture Carrie said...

Amazing bio and pics!
Love her style!


Sarah said...

Adore Peggy Lee!

L.Voss said...

amazing profile. I actually have two of her greatest hits cds.

Meri said...

What an awesome job your boyfriend has! I think the first photo Peggy resembles Peggy Oleson from Mad Men!

Stevia said...

I love her style! that 20's hair is just too amazing!

The Sweetest Escape 

Fashion art and other fancies said...

Excellent job your boyfrined is doing over there at the museum.
There's nothing nicer than learning from history.

Tights Lover said...

I definitely enjoy this style of music. She had a gorgeous voice...

Ramblings of a Redhead said...

She's gorgeous and so is her voice. Jealous. Always wished I could sing! ps - come to my blog and enter my present giveaway. I want to send you a gift!

theritzyflapper said...

wow she is beautiful very unique look :)