iTunes Diaries, entry #42: “Fever” by Peggy Lee

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 


Not every song that I downloaded from iTunes comes with a grand story. Not every song can, because sometimes my rationale for making a purchase was little more than “This is a good song, and I shall buy it.” Take “Fever” by Peggy Lee. It ended up on a playlist that I populated with songs that met this simple criterion. I don’t possess any sort of particular fetish for Peggy Lee or lounge/nightclub acts of the 1950s and 1960s. There was a brief period in the late 90s/early 2000s when I became moderately obsessed with the soundtrack to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I loved the mix of fun, modern classics and sultry singers of the past like Lena Horne. So maybe that got stuck in my subconscious somewhere. I’m not really sure.

Then again, for some songs, like I said, you just don’t need a reason. I mean, you know the song. And if you don’t, then just listen:

It’s hard to argue with that voice. Or that great stand-up bass line. (The video above is an interesting one, seemingly cobbled together from a once-lost TV performance by Lee. Though the audio quality varies widely, it’s clear that she’s is not lip syncing. That’s pretty cool.)

Though I will admit that the song’s lyrics are a tad outdated. “Outdated?” Hmmm…that’s not really the word I’m looking for. “Changed” might be a better one. Just take a listen to the song at was first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956:

So, um…yeah. The song has seen its share of changes over the years. And lots of different people have covered it. I knew of the Madonna and Elvis Presley covers but had no idea of the Beyoncé and Michael Bublé ones until recently. And I know various DJs and turntablists have mixed and remixed the song to the delight or dismay of any number of dancehall party goers.

But this song was such a hit for Peggy Lee, and I’m willing to bet that her version went a long way in helping to popularize it, that it will likely always be associated with her, no matter what came before or after or comes in the future. And despite my own analysis, it’s a good song. And therefore, I bought it. The end.

Peggy Lee -- Things are Swingin' (1959)
Peggy Lee — Things are Swingin’ (1959)

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