Grading the great girl singers is a feckless exercise. The comparative worth of Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughan and such must always remain in the ear of the listener. That said, I confess that the late Peggy Lee tops my personal hierarchy. Sexy, stylish and sincere, North Dakota’s leggy Ms. Egstrom suffered no fools and stuck to her guns. For my money, though, what really separated Lee from the pack was how she succeeded as both songwriter and songbird. Within jazz circles, such bona fide hyphenates are few. Johnny Mercer and Mel Torme could do it, as can Mark Murphy and Bobby McFerrin. Their female counterparts are even rarer.
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