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Sunday, December 12, 2021

'I sing . . . because I still can'


“I always loved reading. I always was the spelling bee champion. I always loved words. I always wanted to know what they meant, why you used them, who first said them. I was always interested in that.” – Brenda Lee

‘Tis the season … to hear the terrific voice and words of Brenda Lee as one of the all-time biggest holiday hit songs “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”  makes its annual appearance.   I grew up listening to Lee’s songs – both on the radio and from my mother who didn’t hesitate to “rock out” herself while bopping around the kitchen and singing them – especially the wonderful “I’m Sorry,” which Brenda wrote at age 15.   Her Christmas song, by the way, was recorded when she was just 13, hard to fathom when you hear her big booming voice.  It was written by Johnny Marks, who also wrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Holly, Jolly Christmas."

Lee was a child prodigy, appearing on national television by the age of 10, and making her first recordings for Decca at age 11 (in 1956). Her first few Decca singles, in fact, make a pretty fair bid for the best preteen rock & roll performances this side of Michael Jackson.  Between 1960 and 1962 she had a remarkable 9 Top Ten hit songs, most of which she wrote herself.

 Brenda in 1960

Still singing and writing both music and memoir-type pieces, she celebrated her 77th birthday on Dec. 11th and said “I don’t think anyone ever gets tired of well-written, well-crafted songs.  (And) I still sing because I love the sound of applause.  It’s who I am … and because I still can.”

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