Peggy Lee

Fever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee

A biography by Peter Richmond

US edition: Henry Holt and Co. (ISBN: 0805073833)
Released March 21, 2006

UK edition: Aurum Press Ltd. (ISBN: 1845131754)
Release date May 26, 2006


Apart from Miss Peggy Lee: An Autobiography — first published in 1989, then updated and republished after Peggy’s passing in 2002 — Peter Richmond’sFever: The Life and Music of Miss Peggy Lee is the first full-length biography of Peggy. Many of her musical colleagues were interviewed for the book, including Max Bennett, Artie Butler, Pete Candoli, Stella Castellucci, John Chiodini, Jack Costanzo, Arthur Hamilton, Joe Harnell, Keith Ingham, Quincy Jones, Jay Leonhart, Mundell Lowe, Bucky Pizzarelli, Andre Previn, Mike Renzi, and Grady Tate. Two of Peggy’s closest friends, Phoebe Jacobs and Kathy Levy, also granted interviews.

Comments from Peggy’s family

A number of you have asked about Peter Richmond’s biography about Mama and her music and whether it has been authorized by the family. The simple answer is that we have not “authorized” it, as that word is commonly used with respect to biographies. Peter was wary of labeling the book as “authorized” for fear that it might wrongfully suggest some loss of authorial independence. We felt the family shouldn’t endorse or even be associated with a book about Mama over which we had no final say over content. We were concerned that statements could be made about Mama or her family, friends and colleagues, that weren’t accurate or that the book would offer opinions that differed seriously from our own. Also, we plan on one day writing our own book about Mama, so we didn’t feel that we should share all of our thoughts and stories at this time.

That having been said, the family did cooperate with Peter on his book, as we wanted it to be as accurate as it could be. Peter is a serious journalist and writer with a great deal of talent, and he has devoted years of his life to this project. For that alone, we believe that our family and Mama’s fans owe him our thanks. In our interactions with Peter, we have found him to be a gifted writer and a passionate researcher, and he has demonstrated an integrity which we have found most refreshing.

Bear in mind that there will undoubtedly be content in the book with which we will disagree and that there will be more to be told about Mama’s life that we, ourselves, will share at an appropriate time. But until then we’re glad that you will have Peter’s book to turn to learn more about Mama’s fascinating life and career. We very much wish Peter and Fever great success.

Quoting Henry Holt and Co. publicity:

The first major biography of the legendary singer — an enthralling account of a charismatic artist moving through the greatest, most glamorous era of American music

“I learned courage from Buddha, Jesus, Lincoln, and Mr. Cary Grant.” So said Peggy Lee, the North Dakota girl who sang like she’d just stepped out of Harlem. Einstein adored her; Duke Ellington dubbed her “the Queen.” With her platinum cool and inimitable whisper she sold twenty million records, made more money than Mickey Mantle, and along with pals Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby presided over music’s greatest generation. Yet beneath the diamonds she was still Norma Deloris Egstrom, insecure and always looking for acceptance.

Drawing on exclusive interviews and new information, Peter Richmond delivers a complex, compelling portrait of an artist and an era that begins with a girl plagued by loss, her father’s alcoholism, and her stepmother’s abuse. One day she gets on a train hoping her music will lead her someplace better. It does — to a new town and a new name; to cities and clubs where a gallery of brilliant innovators are ushering in a brand-new beat; to four marriages, a daughter, Broadway, Vegas, and finally Hollywood. Richmond traces how Peggy rose, right along with jazz itself, becoming an unstoppable hit-maker (“Fever,” “Mañana,” “Is That All There Is?”). We see not only how this unforgettable star changed the rhythms of music, but also how — with her drive to create, compose, and perform — she became an artist whose style influenced k.d. lang, Norah Jones, and Diana Krall.

Fever brings the lady alive again — and makes her swing.

Author Biography

Peter Richmond has been an award-winning reporter and feature writer for GQ magazine for two decades. He has covered everything from Rosemary Clooney to sports, and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone. He has appeared many times on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. He lives in Dutchess County, New York.