Tish Oney was around 12 years old when she first heard Peggy Lee performing on a PBS special.
It didn’t take long for Oney to be captivated by the elegant woman she saw on TV.
“She was a master at understatement, singing very softly into the microphone, almost whispering, sometimes purring,” Oney says. ““She could hold an audience in the palm of her hand.”
Oney, a professional jazz singer, composer and music professor living in Greenville, has channeled her love for Lee in a new biography, “Peggy Lee: A Century of Song,” published by Rowman & Littlefield.
The book’s launch is part of the official “Peggy Lee 100” global campaign in honor of the famed singer’s centennial year.
“This book is really a celebration of her artistic legacy,” Oney says.
Known as the “female Frank Sinatra,” Lee recorded more than 1,100 songs over her six-decade music career and was nominated for 13 Grammy Awards. She was also an accomplished songwriter, according to Oney, penning over 270 original songs, including the entire soundtrack for Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.”
She even had an acting career, playing an alcoholic blues singer in the 1955 film “Pete Kelly’s Blues,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
“She was an outstanding Renaissance woman who did a lot of things very well,” Oney says. “She set the bar for a lot of female pop artists and helped to pave the way for them.”
“Peggy Lee: A Century of Song” follows the evolution of Lee’s recorded music and includes interviews with Lee’s family, friends and music colleagues, who share their insights and memories of the musical icon. The book’s forward is written by John Chiodini, Lee’s former music director, who has toured and recorded four albums with Oney.
“I think that’s the other reason that I wrote the book,” Oney says. “She’s somebody we don’t want to forget. She’s somebody we want to teach our children about, because she was a really important woman at a time when it was very hard for a woman to set her own pace and carve her own path.”
“Peggy Lee: A Century of Song” is available for order at Rowman & Littlefield and all major online booksellers. A virtual book release and launch party will be held at 1 p.m. on Aug. 20. For more information, visit Oney’s Facebook page.