Bright skies and warmer weather bring something called Spring Fever. It’s a condition of the mind which causes you to crave moonlight walks, warm embraces, soft songs and a deep gaze into someone’s eyes. This malady can be traced way back, but I want to take you back to a jazzy origin.
When the first Grammy awards were held in 1959, one of the first songs to be nominated was Peggy Lee’s cover of Little Willie John’s song "Fever." It was placed in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance.
Miss Peggy was the female version of cool. Blonde, with a beauty mark near her mouth, her elegant wardrobe and flawless makeup exuded sophistication. At the beginning of "Fever," her fingers snap, setting the tempo that leads into one of the best introductory bass licks ever. The trumpet solo adds heat to her sexy low growl. In the middle of the song, there are history stanzas about two famous couples, Romeo and Juliet done in Elizabethan rhyme, Captain Smith and Pocahontas, complete with a double entendre of “Daddy-O, don’t you dare” and a scientific nod to temperature. It’s all Miss Peggy. She wrote those stanzas to replace ones that she didn’t think fit her style and image from the original song. Her version has been covered by Elvis, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Guy, Michael Buble, Madonna and Beyonce.
Born in North Dakota in 1920, Norma Delores Engstrom was half Norwegian and half Swedish. She was renamed by the announcer when she sang live for a Fargo radio broadcast during her high school years. At 17, she left home, headed for California. While singing in a Palm Beach Hotel, she was offered a job at the Buttery Room in the Ambassador East Hotel, here in Chicago. That’s where she was seen by Benny Goodman and became his band singer for two year, until she married band guitarist Dave Bourbon. Since band rules said no married couples, they both quit.
But she didn’t stop performing because of marriage. Her solo career soared. She even worked to make Disney sexy. She was the motivating force behind the movie Lady and the Tramp. She voiced Darling, the wife, Peg, the dog and the two Siamese cats, Si and Am. She co-wrote lyrics for the five of the six songs in the movie. She performed "La La Lu," "He’s a Tramp" and "The Siamese Cat Song," where she recorded two tracks to perform both cat voices.
Through her sixty year career and four husbands, she kept the heat turned up. Working on writing, acting and performing through the late 1990s, she even inspired the Muppets' brassy, bossy Miss Piggy. Champagne and chocolate anyone?
~Lydia Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)