Peggy Lee, the sultry-sounding jazz vocalist who sang songs she wrote, as well as show tunes and American pop standards, died Jan. 21 in her Bel Air, CA, her family announced.
Ms. Lee was 81 and had one Broadway credit: The autobiographical concert specialty, Peg, for which she wrote songs. It played a week in 1983.
Her daughter, Nicki Lee Foster, announced her mother's death on the official Peggy Lee website, peggylee.com.
"I am deeply saddened to inform you that my mother passed away last night (Jan. 21, 2002) at approximately 8 PM. My children David, Holly and Michael and I were comforted by the fact that she was at home, and that I was able to be by her side. My mother was always very appreciative of the love and loyalty she received from her wonderful fans, and so this is the first announcement to be made."
The cause of death was a heart attack. Ms. Lee suffered a stroke three years ago. Ms. Lee had performed even after years of poor health, singing breathily, much to the delight of her hardcore fans. "Fever" may have been her best-known hit. Her work spanned from pre World War II to the late 1980s, and she was at ease with a range of orchestrations, from big bands and trios. She famously voiced a sexy canine in the Disney animated feature, "Lady and the Tramp."
She was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, ND, May 26, 1920. She fled an abusive stepmother and sang in North Dakota and on the West Coast before joining Benny Goodman. A recording career followed, as did her national fame. She also acted in films and was Academy Award-nominated for playing the boozy singer in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955).
Ms. Lee was married four times. With her first husband, guitarist Dave Barbour, she had daughter Nicki. They met while performing together with Benny Goodman's band during World War II.
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Lee is survived by her grandchildren David Foster, Holly Foster-Wells, and Michael Foster; and her great-grandchildren Teagan Foster, Caleb Foster and Carter Wells.
— By Kenneth Jones