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Peggy Lee

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Jamestown ND, United States (1920 – 2002)

Peggy Lee (26 May 1920 – 21 Jan 2002), was an American Grammy Award-winning / and Academy Award-nominated actress. She was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota. Lee has been cited as an influence by such diverse artists as Bobby Darin, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Madonna, Shirley Horn, k.d. lang, Elvis Costello, Dusty Springfield, Dr. John, and numerous others. As a songwriter, she collaborated with Sonny Burke, Victor Young, Francis Lai, Dave Grusin, John Chiodini, her husband Dave Barbour, and Duke Ellington, who stated, ‘If I’m the Duke, then Peggy’s the Queen. ’ As an actress, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Pete Kelly’s Blues. She had a contralto singing range.

Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong all cited Lee as one of their favorite singers.

Peggy Lee had Norwegian and Swedish ancestry. She was the seventh of eight children born to Marvin Egstrom, a station agent for the Midland Continental Railroad. Her mother died when she was four years old. Music provided her an escape from the abusive rampages of her cruel stepmother, Min, who tormented and beat young Norma. She first sang professionally with KOVC radio in Valley City, North Dakota. She soon landed her own series on a radio show sponsored by a local restaurant that paid her “salary” in food. Both during and after her high school years, she took whatever jobs she could find, waitressing and singing for paltry sums on other local stations. Radio personality Ken Kennedy (actual name: Ken Sydness), of WDAY in Fargo (the most widely listened to station in North Dakota) changed her name from Norma to Peggy Lee.

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