ARTIST: Peggy Lee
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“Fever” was written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell for R&B singer Little Willie John for his debut album Fever, released in 1956. It was a modest hit and peaked at number 24 on the Billboard pop chart. Peggy Lee recorded and released her version in 1958, with a few re-written lyrics that Lee never credited herself for. Lee’s version was slower than the original and the stripped down arrangement saw stand up bass, limited drum set (apparently the drummer even played some parts with his fingers’ and unaccredited finger snaps. Lee’s rendition is often seen as the definitive rendition, garnering praise for Lee’s sultry and sexy vocal delivery. It peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent 12 weeks on the chart.
Norma Deloris Egstrom was born On May 26, 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota. Peggy started singing when she was young, and toured with a college dance band. Her first professional gig was on the radio at age 16, which was soon followed by her own 15 minute radio show. This led to features on radio stations with bigger bandwidth, most notably the largest station in North Dakota where a radio personality changed her name to Peggy Lee. She soon left for Hollywood but after exhaustion and a brief stint in the hospital, she ended back in North Dakota. She eventually went back to California where she got a gig singing at the Doll House in Palm Springs and developed her sultry, signature sound. In 1941 bandleader Benny Goodman’s fiancée noticed her, brought Benny to see her which led to Peggy singing with the Benny Goodman orchestra for 2 years. The hits started shortly afterward, 2 of her singles, “Somebody Else is Taking My Place) and “Why Don’t You Do Right?” having both sold over a million copies. She married Benny’s guitar player and settled into domestic life, sometimes songwriting and sometimes recording. The next decade or so saw her popularity skyrocket, being featured on more albums as well as variety television shows. In 1958 she recorded and released “Fever”, which was a huge hit and got her nominated for some Grammy Awards. Peggy continued to perform into the 1990s, until she passed from a heart attack on January 21, 2002.
Peggy Lee co-wrote over 270 songs.
Lee is apparently the inspiration for the Margarita cocktail. After returning from a trip to Mexico, Lee asked a bartender in Texas to try and recreate a cocktail she had while in Mexico. The bartender created the drink and named it after the Spanish version of Peggy’s name.
Yet another song I’ve heard a bajillion times! But one I’ve never really thought of that much, possibly because I didn’t love it. And I still don’t. I understand that it’s pretty iconic, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it (just wait until we get to Nirvana). I really like that the song is sultry, sexy, sizzly. I think that’s in large part to the sparse arrangement and the main instrument being a stand-up bass. I think I’m just overall unimpressed with Peggy’s voice. I find it unremarkable, underwhelming, and while I understand it doesn’t have to be a show stopper to be sexy and what not, I actually find it a bit dull – at one point in one of my listens to the song I checked to see how much time is left. And those key changes are ROUGH. The song is decent, and I do like the line ‘what a lovely way to burn’. But I won’t rush out and buy this record.
This song has me very mixed. I love the slow, torchy, vibe. I love the laid back bass, and the drum kit just kind of accenting with low toms and bass drum. I just can’t get behind Peggy Lee’s voice. I don’t know why, but I’ve never liked it. I think it’s the way she’s always doing these quick swells into and out of notes. That can be a cool effect, but too much starts to make you feel seasick and to me a little unconvincing. Maybe this song needs someone whose voice is just a bit more worn and rough to really go with the vibe. I do like the song though. There aren’t that many songs from this time period where the singer is singing TO the subject which I think is really effective.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
The original with some questionable tuning:
Beyonce with a super alto sexy version:
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2 thoughts on “Song 100 – Fever”
Another very good version was done by Buddy Guy.
I love Little Willie John’s version better.