Jazz composer Oney celebrates the centennial of musician Peggy Lee’s birth in a melodious tribute to the singer’s versatility as a singer and composer. Lee (1920–2002) grew up in North Dakota and during high school had guest spots singing on local radio stations until she was offered her own show. At age 17 she left for California, where she was discovered by and joined up with band leader Benny Goodman. She eventually left Goodman’s band to pursue a solo career, and signed a contract with Capitol Records, releasing her first album, Rendezvous with Peggy Lee, in 1947. Oney illustrates how Lee’s restless creativity and canny music and business sense helped her climb the ladder of success and expanded her audiences. In the 1950s Lee was offered another radio show, the Peggy Lee Show (also known as Club 88), a segment of which was to highlight contemporary composers such as Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael. In the 1970s, Lee collaborated with such stars as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, which introduced her to a new generation of listeners. As Oney points out, Lee’s ways with a song allowed her to move with ease from singing blues and jazz to popular contemporary songs. This is a delightful volume for fans of American pop standards.
Oney pays tribute to the iconic singer by focusing “exclusively on Lee’s musical footprint and artistic legacy." Previous books about Lee haven’t paid sufficient attention to her musicianship, Oney writes, and she capably fills the void with this thoughtful and perceptive look at Lee's 60-year career. Lee recorded more than 50 albums and composed more than 250 songs, and Oney describes how many were created. Lee worked with a number of notables in American popular song, and among them were Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Mel Tormé, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra. Lee was also an advocate for intellectual property rights and royalties for film composers, songwriters, and musical performers. In her early years as a big band singer to her recordings for Capitol, Decca, and other labels; her film contributions as performer, composer, and lyricist; her concerts and collaborations with other artists, new and established; her television performances; and more, Peggy Lee left her mark on American music. Oney's fresh and comprehensive biography is the perfect way to celebrate the centennial of Lee's birth.