by Laurie Henshaw
Some singers stay the pace. And the reason can be found in one word – artistry. Talent helps, but talent and artistry are not always synonymous.
Who better to illustrate the point than Peggy Lee? No one – or, at any rate, none of the “pundits” – would bracket Peggy Lee with Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan as a singer. And in the purely pop sphere, Eydie Gormé can sing rings around her.
But Peggy Lee is an artist. Moreover – and this is not to detract from the quality of her contemporaries – she possesses a poignancy of delivery that wrings the heartstrings.
One other artist had it – Billie Holiday. And though she wasn’t a singer in the true sense of the word, she could move you near to tears.
Peggy Lee isn’t “great” in the sense that Holiday was great. Far from it. Yet in the gilded world of pop, she contrives to bring a touch of greatness to all her performances.
She did it in “Lover” and “Would You Dance with a Stranger?” – two tracks issued on the defunct 78s that are still fresh in the mind – and she has since done it on successive LPs.
A new Peggy Lee LP, in fact, stimulates as much interest among discerning collectors as a new Sinatra release does with the female – and often male – admirers.
Latest in the Lee line is the cutely titled Latin a la Lee (Capitol T1290). It may not rank with her best to date, but some of the tracks are sheer delight. Particularly the wistful “Dance Only with Me,” which echoes that never-to-be-forgotten “Would You Dance with a Stranger?”
This is the little-girl-lost Peggy Lee – the Peggy Lee whose projection of lyrical sentiments is equaled by no other in the world of pop or jazz today.