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Peggy Lee: 1920-2002

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If it weren’t for a seriously bad haircut, I might never have truly experienced the enveloping joyful seduction of Peggy Lee, who passed away Jan. 21 at her Bel Air, Calif., home. The smolder of her no-nonsense sophistication has surely eased far more unfortunate realities than dealing with one of those unintentionally asymmetrical “cosmetology school” deals. And as a child I no doubt appreciated her saucy, understated contributions to Lady and the Tramp, and the occasional radio selection from her catalog of popular jazz vocal hits. But after swilling too many cans of cheap beer with a friend who offered to “fix” the situation with crimping irons, hot rollers, ribbons and spray punk hair dye, nothing could have cheered me up more than the crackled vinyl silk of The Peggy Lee Songbook: There’ll Be Another Spring. In her 81 years, Lee suffered more than her fair share of abuse and misplaced love; you can hear the hardship, pride and strength in her phrasing. And no matter the supposed drawbacks there are to being a woman — being judged by a bad haircut is surely one of them — my center swelled with unadulterated pride as my friend and I slipped our outside appearances that night. We bounded across her living room over the couches, knocking over tables and chairs in a slightly inebriated reckless abandon to the chilling mystery of “Fever” and “He’s a Tramp.” Thanks, Peggy.

Metro Times music writer Melissa Giannini contributed to The Hot & the Bothered, which is edited by George Tysh. E-mail him at gtysh@metrotimes.com.

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