Brenda Mae Tarpley, better known as Brenda Lee, is the American singer that had 37 US chart hits during the 1960s, a number surpassed only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis. She is best known for her 1960 hit “I’m Sorry“, and 1958’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, a US holiday standard for more than 50 years.

Having 1.45 m tall, she received the nickname “Little Miss Dynamite” in 1957, at 13 years old, after recording the song “Dynamite” (bellow it’s a vivid proof of her talent) .

Lee’s voice, pretty face and stage presence won her wider attention from the time she was only five years old. At age six, she won a local singing contest. The reward was a live appearance on an Atlanta radio show, Starmakers Revue, where she performed for the next year.

Her father died in 1953, and by the time she turned ten, she was the primary breadwinner of her family through singing at events and on local radio and television shows.

Lee achieved her biggest success on the pop charts in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s with rock and roll-styled songs. Her biggest hits included “Jambalaya”, “Sweet Nothin’s” , “I Want to Be Wanted” and “Fool”.

The biggest-selling track of Lee’s career was a Christmas song – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” -, that sold more than five million copies. In 2008, her recording of this song marked 50 years as a holiday standard, and in February 2009, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave Lee a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

Lee was popular in the UK early in her career. She toured the UK in 1959, before she had achieved much pop recognition in the US. Brenda Lee also toured in Ireland and appeared on the front of the dancing and entertainment magazine of the time there, Spotlight, in April 1963.

Lee enjoys one distinction unique among successful American singers. Her opening act on a UK tour in the early 1960s was performed by a then-little-known beat group from Liverpool: The Beatles.

Lee’s popularity faded in the late 1960s as her voice matured, but she continued a successful recording career by returning to her roots as a country singer with a string of hits through the 1970s and 1980s.


Categories: Stories of artists

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