With a career spanning seven decades from May 26, 1920, to January 21, 2002, Norma Deloris Egstrom, better known by her stage name Peggy Lee, was an American jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress.
Lee built a complicated identity from her origins as a vocalist on local radio to singing with Benny Goodman’s big band, in addition to producing music for movies, acting, and recording conceptual record albums that combine poetry and music. Lee, who also wrote over 270 songs, recorded over 1,100 masters.
Peggy Lee died in January 2002. She was born in May 1920 in Jamestown, North Dakota. She wed Brad Dexter, Dave Barbour, and Dewey Martin three times each. She collaborated with Benny Goodman as a singer, and together they created successes like “Somebody Else is Taking My Place” and “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
Golden Earrings, Manana (Is Soon Enough For Me), Fever, “Is That All There Is?” and “Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” were all hit singles for Peggy Lee as a solo artist. Peggy Lee was an actress who appeared in Mr. Music, The Jazz Singer, Lady, and the Tramp, and Pete Kelly’s Blues, among other movies.
She received 12 Grammy nominations, took home the prize for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Songwriters Hall of Fame also recognized Peggy Lee with an induction.
She was nominated for an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award, and she also received a star for recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At the age of 81, Peggy Lee passed away on January 21, 2002.
Net Worth of Peggy Lee
At the time of her passing, Peggy Lee had a $1 million net worth. Peggy had a lavish lifestyle during her lifetime that she had to earn the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars to support.
She had apparently run out of money by the time she passed away in 2002 after a 60-year career in the entertainment world. Peggy “barely had enough money to support her extravagant preferences,” according to reports at the time from insiders.
“Somebody Else Is Taking My Place,” Lee’s first number-one single, peaked in 1942. “Why Don’t You Do Right?” followed in 1943, selling more than a million copies and catapulting Lee to fame. In the 1943 motion pictures Stage Door Canteen and The Powers Girl, she performed with the Goodman Orchestra.
In 1944, she reverted to composing and sporadic recording sessions for Capitol Records, for whom she produced a lengthy list of successful singles, including “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and “It’s a Good Day,” many of which had words and music by the Lee and Barbour.
Between 1947 and 1948, her version of the 1947 film’s theme song, “Golden Earrings,” became a smash. Her tenth solo hit single, “Maana,” which was co-written by Lee and Barbour, spent twenty-one weeks on the charts, nine of them at the top.
The song garnered the Top Disc Jockey Record of the Year accolade from Billboard magazine after selling over a million copies. Lee also made recordings for Capitol’s collection of electrical transcriptions for radio stations between 1946 and 1949. Capitol Transcriptions advertised in a trade publication that their transcriptions had “unique vocal introductions by Peggy.”
In The Jazz Singer (1952), a remake of the Al Jolson movie The Jazz Singer, Lee co-starred with Danny Thomas (1927). In Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955), she portrayed an alcoholic blues singer, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In the 1955 Disney film Lady and the Tramp, Lee performed the speaking and singing voices of a number of characters, including the human Darling, the dog Peg, and the two Siamese cats, Si and Am. All of the movie’s original songs, including “He’s A Tramp,” “Bella Notte,” “La La Lu,” “The Siamese Cat Song,” and “Peace on Earth,” were co-written by her and Sonny Burke.
When Lady and the Tramp were made available on VHS in 1987, Lee requested performance and song royalties from the sales of the DVD. She sued Disney in 1988 after they declined to pay. After a protracted legal struggle, Lee was granted $2.3 million for contract violation, along with $500,000 for unjust enrichment, $600,000 for unauthorized use of her voice, and $400,000 for unauthorized use of her name, in 1992.
She wed Dave Barbour in 1943, Brad Dexter the following year, Dewey Martin the following year, and Jack Del Rio the following year.
Lee continued to play well into the 1990s, oftentimes using a wheelchair. She had a protracted history of poor health, and on January 21, 2002, at the age of 81, she died of complications from diabetes and a heart attack.
She was cremated, and her ashes were interred next to a bench-style memorial in the Los Angeles cemetery located in Westwood Village Memorial Park.
Peggy resided in a sizable estate in Bel Air, Los Angeles, for more than ten years. One year after her passing, in 2003, her estate sold the home for $1.8 million. The following owner offered the mansion for $10 million in 2018 following major improvements.