Peggy Lee: A Century of Song

Rowman & Littlefield. Jun. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781538128473. $32. MUSIC
On the centenary of Peggy Lee’s birth, professor, musicologist, and international jazz recording artist Oney chronicles the protean musical talents and accomplishments of this gifted composer, lyricist, arranger, actor, and vocalist whose prodigious catalog of 50-plus albums encompassed jazz, blues, pop, and R&B. Oney details Lee’s six-decade-long improbable journey from a farm in rural North Dakota to enshrinement as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Avoiding salacious gossip or indiscreet stories, Oney states her purpose is to focus “exclusively on Lee’s musical footprint and artistic legacy.” The arrangement is largely chronological, with distinct chapters devoted to Lee’s involvement with film, television, and Broadway. Oney’s musical exegesis is thorough and sure to satisfy music scholars.
VERDICT Those seeking the skinny on personal information, such as Lee’s four marriages and subsequent divorces, should look elsewhere, but those wanting to geek out on the subtleties of Lee’s jazz slides, phrasing, and vocal interpretive prowess will be richly rewarded.

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