Is That All There Is? The Strange Life of Peggy Lee (Atria Books, 2014)
I’m a huge fan of the Great American Songbook. Those great songs written between the 1920 to 1950’s by the likes of Irvin Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers, etc. Many were written for Broadway shows and movies.
After the advent of rock and roll very few songs from movies or shows made it into the pop charts. A few composer- songwriters have kept the tradition going like Stephen Sondheim.
Singers like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee sung nothing but songs from the Great American Songbook. Today, there a few singers that have kept the tradition alive. Singers like Michael Buble and Diana Krall and even rock singers Paul McCarthy and Rod Stewart have released whole albums devoted to great songs from yesteryear.
Many consider Peggy Lee to be one of the great singers of all time. With such great hits like Is That All There Is? or Fever are songs I grew up with. Peggy Lee, like many other singers lived a strange and tortured life beyond music.
In a long and absorbing book James Gavin explores every aspect of Peggy’s life from her upbringing in North Dakota to her stardom in Beverly Hills. No detail seems to be left unturned. Peggy Lee was one of the first female divas in the pop music world and was women’s lib before there was such a term.
If you love biographies, especially about pop music stars this book is a true page turner with lots of celebrity name dropping of movie stars to presidents and kings and queens. I think it is one of the best music biographies ever written.