Singer Peggy Lee, whose sultry voice belted out blues, jazz and ballads for more than four decades, has died at her California home, her family reported.
(U3) NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (FILE - JULY 7 1971)(REUTERS)
PEGGY LEE ARRIVING FOR THE FUNERAL OF FELLOW SINGER LOUIS ARMSTRONG
Background: Singer Peggy Lee, whose sultry voice belted out blues, jazz and ballads for more than four decades, has died at her California home, her family reported.
Singer Peggy Lee, whose sultry voice belted out blues, jazz and ballads for more than four decades, died at her Bel Air home on Monday night, her family reported. She was 81.
Lee's daughter, Nicki Lee Foster, said on the singer's Web site that Lee had died of a heart attack. She suffered a stroke three years ago.
"My children ... and I were comforted by the fact that she was at home, and that I was able to be by her side," Foster said.
One of the best-loved female singers in America, the ash blond with the tied-back hair recorded more than 60 albums containing over 600 songs during her career, including such classics as "Fever," "Manana," "Lover," "Golden Earrings,"
"Big Spender" and "Is That All There Is?" the latter winning her a Grammy Award in 1969.
Her 1989 album, "Peggy Sings the Blues," was a Grammy Award nominee.
At the time of her death, Lee was leading a potentially groundbreaking class-action lawsuit vs. Universal Music, a unit of Vivendi Universal EAUG.PA>. Just last week, the music giant agreed to pay $4.75 million in back royalties to as many as 300 performers to settle the suit.
Lee was a prolific songwriter and arranger and her 1990, "The Peggy Lee Songbook," released shortly before she was awarded the coveted Pied Piper Award presented by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, contained four songs she wrote with guitarist John Chiodini.
She also wrote for jazz greats Duke Ellington, who called her "The Queen," and Johnny Mercer, and composer Quincy Jones.
Along the way she wowed audiences with her signing from lavish night clubs to the White House, prompting renowned Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather to dub her, "Miss Standing Ovation."
Born Norma Deloris Engstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, on May 26, 1920, Lee was only 4 when her mother died and her father, a railroad station agent, left home.
She was consigned to a stepmother who physically abused her. Lee memorialized her in the Calypso number "One Beating a Day," one of 22 songs she co-wrote for the autobiographical musical "Peg," in which she made her Broadway debut in 1983 at the age of 62.
Lee also made her mark in Hollywood as an actress, winning an Academy Award nomination for her role as the hard-drinking singer in the 1955 jazz saga, "Pete Kelly's Blues."
Lee projected an air of sensual self-confidence on stage, but her private life was racked by physical ailments, a near-fatal fall in 1976 and four marriages ending in divorce.
She had her only daughter, Nicki, with her first husband and greatest love, guitarist Dave Barbour, whom she met while both were touring with Benny Goodman's swing band from 1941 to 1943.
Lee and Barbour were married in 1943, and she turned down offers to sing to stay at home in Los Angeles, but his drinking brought the marriage to an end eight years later.
Three husbands followed -- actors Brad Dexter and Dewey Martin and bongo player Jack Del Rio -- but all of the marriages were short-lived.
Lee and Barbour were about to get back together in 1965, Barbour having been sober for 13 years, but before it could happen he died of a heart attack.
A diabetic, Lee was plagued by weight and glandular problems throughout her life.