The Life and Times of Brenda Lee
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Singer Lee takes an amiable ramble through her half-century (plus some) in American popular music.

And she’s still in her 50s. This musical prodigy was singing professionally at 7, recording for Decca at 11. Unlike most child performers, Lee relied neither on cuteness nor a wispy, little-girl voice. Listeners were amazed to hear a tiny child (who hit only four nine an adult) belt out a song with a full-throated, booming tone. According to one writer, Lee was blessed with the power of Mahalia Jackson and the hillbilly heart of Hank Williams. And lacking stage fright, she radiated a naturalness that impressed veterans, who quickly took her under their wings. She was lucky in both her tastes and her management. As she outgrew adolescent stardom, she mastered the adult repertoire, enchanting audiences who loved Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. When hits stopped coming in the ’70s, she returned to country music with great success. During 50-plus years of performing, Lee sang with nearly everyone from Red Foley to the Beatles (in 1962 Hamburg) to k.d. lang. She has strong opinions on all, but readers looking for scandal will find slim pickings here. Lee liked almost everyone. The routine dissipations of stardom brushed her lightly. The ’60s drug explosion passed her by. At 18, she married a boy her own age, and they remain married. When he took over her management in 1979, she became a multimillionaire. (Many, many people had been stealing money from her, an occupational hazard in the music business.) Lee takes care to list her TV appearances, her recordings, her positions on the charts, and all the celebrities she’s ever met. She quotes liberally from reviews, interviews, and publicity releases, all brimming with adulation. Yet the effect is charming: through it all, she comes across as a nice person with no scores to settle.

A pleasant, chatty monologue from an icon of American pop.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2002
ISBN: 0-7868-6644-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2002


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