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Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee Paperback – March 29, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miss Peggy Lee," as show marquees always billed her, is for Richmond a vocal genius on the level of Armstrong, Sinatra or Crosby, but one whose reputation has become overshadowed by time. The GQ reporter aims to restore Lee's luster by retelling the story of Norma Egstrom's (1920–2002) journey from listening to jazz on the radio in North Dakota to taking the stage alongside Benny Goodman's band as Peggy Lee, then moving on to even more astounding success in her solo career. Richmond is reverential toward Lee's interpretations of the "Great American Songbook" (though dismissive of attempts to incorporate contemporary tunes into her 1970s performances) and equally respectful toward her turbulent personal life. Although he acknowledges widespread testimony of her drinking, he defers to Lee's refusal to describe herself as an alcoholic. He is similarly circumspect in addressing her intimate relationships with stars like Sinatra and Quincy Jones. Although some readers will want more backstage details, Richmond would rather focus on the music, and it's in describing Lee's performances that his portrait most vibrantly comes to life: "When she sang 'Good mornin', sun—good mornin', sun!' her voice was so... happy, it was as if she was swinging open the... door and announcing the arrival of the postwar sunshine." Photos. (Apr. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author's admiration for legendary singer Peggy Lee is unabashed, which is a good thing, because a tribute such as this comprehensive biography is definitely due her. Miss Lee, perhaps, has been too much forgotten, so Richmond reminds us who and what she was. He insists, in fact, that she is among the four great American jazz singers (the others are Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra). She was born in North Dakota, and her early years were not comforted by an easy family life. But early on, she demonstrated an interest in and a talent for singing. Her professional life began on local radio shows, then as a vocalist with bigger bands until she joined Benny Goodman's group, and her road to stardom was paved. Emphasis in this buoyantly written but never gossipy biography is on Lee's music (she also composed songs, an important component of her career) but not without secondary exploration of her personal life. Richmond provides a rich as well as responsible biography of an important pop figure. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 562 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (March 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426613
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,145,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David A. Bede on January 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
Let me say upfront that I did not dislike Peter Richmond's book. I couldn't bring myself to give it less than three stars, for two reasons. One, as a portrait of one of music's all time greats, it's the best source out there to date. Two, it's clear to me that Richmond really, really tried to create the definitive biography of both Miss Peggy Lee and the real woman behind her. But Norma Deloris Egstrom and her alter ego deserve better than this.

Reading it, one does get something of a feel for who Peggy Lee was, or at least who Peter Richmond believes her to have been. But there are far too many instances where either his research got out of hand and he felt the need to throw in all sorts of details that really weren't necessary, or he mentions tidbits he discovered along the way but wasn't able to back up. As a result, the reader has to slog through all sorts of tangents that never go anywhere, notably a throwaway mention of Lee's trouble with the IRS in the early 1970s, followed several pages later by an unconvincing resolution regarding her handlers purchasing land in California as a tax shelter and never mentioned again. In the later chapters, Richmond refers constantly to Lee's declining health (which IS an important part of her life story) without ever really addressing the issue directly. This is understandable in such that he obviously wanted to respect Lee's own wishes with regards to references to her drinking and other unhealthy lifestyle choices. But it does leave the reader with an incomplete and often confusing picture, and if Richmond did not want to address such matters, he really shouldn't have referred to them at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Haynes Davis on June 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am from a past generation. Born in 1934. I had the chance to follow Peggy Lee for a number of years durning her life. The book helps me clearify some of the missing parts of her life. I love Peggy Lee and I have enjoyed the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Courious Reader on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Book describes two Peggy Lee's. The sexy musically savy live entertainer, who controlled the crowd by singing softer and softer so they would have to stop talking if they wanted to hear her.

The other Peggy Lee was born to an alcoholic father and raised by a cruel step mom. A woman who never seemed happy with any of her husbands, though she remained friends with some after their break up. This part of book just scratches the surface at least with any particular relationship she had and why it was going bad. It seems to build to an overall character assesment based on all of her relationships and career - though I had to return the book to the library before I got to the end.

For me the book also described a third Peggy Lee. One who found her way in the musical world, meeting and performing with many great musicans in many of the hot jazz spots of the past. This was the most enjoyable part of the book as you travell back in time to visit with some of the jazz greats that my father loved and some lessor known ones that I met while listening to them with my father. It is also a story of how Peggy kept her career going into the 60s with the avent of rock & roll

You can tell the author is a real fan of Peggy Lee, as he promotes her artistry, innovation, sense of blues/jazz timing and phrasing above all others that have come before (and seemingly after). I share his dislike for modern and beebop jazz, but can't share his enthusiam for her and her music above all others, or for that matter rock & roll.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lollek Verba on April 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was blown away when Gary Giddins wrote a serious bio of Bing Crosby and hoped that someone would do a similar trick for Miss Peggy Lee. Peter Richmond has done it. He covers all the ground from the song of the title to "Lady and the Tramp" to "Is That All There Is?" and beyond and writes for a popular audience, not for people in the music biz. I read this in two nights!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ReadListenWatch on September 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
The cheapest sort of tawdry showbiz writing, where everyone is referred to by either their first name ("Benny," really?, rather than "Goodman"?) or as "the guy," and where song lyrics are quoted in the tiniest chunks (and pointlessly explained) so as to skirt copyright laws. I could put up with the grisliness of style, for the sake of the information, while the author was detailing Peggy Lee's rise to fame, but as he attempted to address her complicated middle years and sad decline, I found his gaudy shallowness downright insulting, and had to put the book down.

Until the day a writer who can write decides to set down an appropriate biography of this great and underappreciated singer, I'll just have to make do with her recordings, which tell us, ultimately, everything we need to know about her.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Denis Watson on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This story of the life and music of Norma Deloris Egstrom from North Dakota has given all Pegy Lee fans a far more complete version of the most talented singer songwriter of the 20th century than her own Autobiography. Not only has Peter Richmond captured ever nuance of Peggy's complex character but he also has painted a picture of the American music scene of the 30's, 40's and 50's in intimate detail.Some of her loyal fans, particularly those like myself from, England, may be dissapointed to find she had, like all icons with talent of the highest order, many flaws. It was, however, the mental and physical anguish she suffered as a young woman, that formed her character and propelled her into immortality.

I sincerley hope that her many fans in the USA will be lobbying to have Peggy Lee represented, Like her contemporaries, Benny Goodman,Count Basie, Billie Holliday etc, on a postage stamp in the Legends of American Music Series
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