Peggy Lee, 1959 (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Peggy Lee got her start singing big-band tunes for Benny Goodman, and she transitioned to even bigger success with rock 'n' roll at Capitol Records. For decades she put out a string of albums mixing old standards and new compositions with her own original tracks. She also provided voices and music for several characters in the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp in 1955, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Pete Kelly's Blues. Lee kept performing well into the 1990s, even as her health declined, but she died at 81 of a combination of a heart attack and diabetes. We remember her remarkable life today as well as other notable people who died on this day in history.
2013: Robert Michael Winner, English film director whose movies include Death Wish, dies at 77.
Winner's 30 movies included three "Death Wish" films starring the late Charles Bronson. Many of his features sit at the schlockier end of the spectrum, but he also worked with Hollywood icons including Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Faye Dunaway. Winner never took criticism of his films too seriously. "If you want art, don't mess about with movies," he once said. "Buy a Picasso." Read more
2011: Dennis Oppenheim, U.S. artist who was a pioneer of conceptual art, dies at 72.
2002: Peggy Lee, one of the most influential popular singers of all time in the U.S., whose signature hit is "Fever," dies at 81.
Lee only performed with Benny Goodman and his band for two years, leaving when she married his guitarist (Goodman didn't like his musicians to fraternize with the "girl singers"), but the short partnership helped launch her to stardom. It brought us a few fantastic hits, too – including the song that made Peggy Lee famous, "Why Don't You Do Right." Read more
1999: Susan Strasberg, U.S. actress who had a starring role in Picnic and was the daughter of acting coach Lee Strasberg, dies of breast cancer at 60.
1999: Charles Brown, U.S. blues singer and pianist who had several hit songs including "Merry Christmas Baby," dies at 76.
1998: Jack Lord, U.S. actor well-known for his role as Steve McGarrett in the TV series Hawaii Five-O, dies at 77.
As an actor, he worked on Broadway, in movies and on TV – and a few years before Hawaii Five-O, he was offered a chance to play Captain Kirk in the first Star Trek series. When Lord requested a bit too much compensation (50 percent ownership of the show), the role went to William Shatner instead. That might be just as well, because Shatner was an iconic Kirk, and it left Lord available to take his biggest and most recognizable role – Hawaii Five-O’s Detective Steve McGarrett. The leader of a team of officers who brought down criminals, secret agents and crime rings, McGarrett also was the character who brought us the show’s famous catchphrase – “Book 'em, Danno!” Read more
1997: Colonel Tom Parker, U.S. manager of Elvis Presley, dies at 87.
1997: Irwin Levine, U.S. songwriter who co-wrote "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," dies at 58.
1991: Frank Mitchell, U.S. actor and comedian who appeared in more than 70 films, dies at 85.
1989: Carl Furillo, U.S. outfielder who played for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and was a two time All-Star, dies at 66.
1989: Billy Tipton, U.S. jazz bandleader who was born a woman but lived his life as a man, which was not discovered until his death, dies at 74.
1987: Charles Goodell, U.S. senator for New York from 1968 to 1971, dies at 60.
1985: James Beard, U.S. chef and food writer who is the namesake of the James Beard Foundation Awards, dies at 81.
1984: Jackie Wilson, U.S. rhythm-and-blues singer who is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and one of the all-time great singers, dies at 49.
Question: How do you choose just one song with which to remember Jackie Wilson, who died 28 years ago today? Answer: You don't. It's impossible. After all, the man known as "Mr. Excitement" had more than 50 hit singles and was named by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. With a career like that, it's hard to even narrow it to a few songs in tribute, but we're going to see if we can pick three. Read more
1968: Will Lang Jr., U.S. journalist who was the bureau head for Life magazine, dies at 53.
1967: Ann Sheridan, U.S. actress who enjoyed a long career and who starred in The Man Who Came to Dinner, dies of cancer at 51.
1959: Cecil B. DeMille, U.S. movie director who had a distinguished career with movies including Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments, dies at 77.
Alfred Hitchcock will always be "the Master of Suspense," John Ford "the Poet Laureate of the American West." DeMille is remembered for something much simpler: putting bloody great things (ornate sets, crowds of extras, natural disasters, special effects, Charlton Heston's chest, Claudette Colbert) in front of the camera and letting the audience know they’re getting their money's worth. Read more
1959: Carl Switzer, U.S. child actor who played Alfalfa in the Our Gang series, dies of a gunshot wound at 31.
1955: Archie Hahn, U.S. athlete who was one of the great sprinters of the early 20th century, winning four Olympic gold medals, dies at 74.
1950: George Orwell, English author whose influential works include Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, dies at 46.
1924: Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin, Russian revolutionary leader, dies of a stroke at 53.