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A Rockin’ Christmas with Brenda Lee
December 3, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
With more than 100 million units of her music sold globally, Brenda Lee has been a superstar since childhood, releasing her first single when she was only 11 years old, sharing the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with Elvis Presley at 12, and watching The Beatles open for her on tour in Europe before she turned 20.
The award-winning vocalist is beloved around the world for a litany of classic hits like “I’m Sorry” (which has sold over 20 million copies) and “Break It To Me Gently,” while her perennial holiday classic, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” wins new fans every year and even reached #1 on the Billboard Christmas charts in 2015—a remarkable 55 years since its initial release in 1960. A member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Lee has been nominated for four Grammy® Awards and has received both the rarely presented NARAS Governor’s Award and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy® from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Join Brenda and her band as she makes her Norton Center debut this holiday season in a concert filled with beloved classics and Christmas favorites that’ll get your spirits rockin’!
Brenda Lee was born Brenda Mae Tarpley in Atlanta, Georgia. Her vocal skills were evident early on, as she won her first talent contest at age five. She performed on a local radio show and at seven became a regular on a Saturday-afternoon TV show. Soon after, she began performing for money, which her family desperately needed after the untimely 1953 death of her father in a construction accident. In 1956, she auditioned for country singer Red Foley and wound up joining the cast of Ozark Jubilee, a Missouri-based country-music TV show. That May, she signed to Decca Records, inaugurating a prolific and hit-filled recording career. Her third single, “One Step at a Time,” was her first to chart, reaching #15 on the country chart and just missing the pop Top Forty by three places. Her major breakthrough, and the biggest hit of her career, was “I’m Sorry,” which inaugurated a string of ballads that did quite well for her in the early Sixties. “I’m Sorry” was one of the first songs cut in Nashville to feature strings, thereby helping to inaugurate the “Nashville Sound.”
Her impact on rock and roll in the late Fifties and early Sixties had much to do with her youthful ability to belt out a tune. She cut material in a variety of styles, verging on rockabilly in her twangy remake of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” (Lee’s first single, issued in September 1956), sounding like a gospel singer on “One Day at a Time” and rocking hard on the vocal showcase “Dynamite,” from which she acquired her nickname. She was a sensation in Europe, especially France. During those magical years, she shared stages with Elvis Presley, the Beatles (who opened for her), Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy and Patsy Cline. When Lee and Vincent toured Europe together, they were dubbed “the King and Queen of Rock and Roll.” John Lennon is alleged to have said, “She has the greatest rock and roll voice of them all.”
“Brenda Lee has proved to be one of the most versatile singers ever to record in Nashville, and her commercial success (as measured by cumulative record sales) is probably second only to Elvis Presley… [Lee] has fashioned a career of uncommon durability that spans more than forty years. In so doing, she has transcended the musical boundaries of pop and country music to earn the awards and respect of fans and peers worldwide.” -Country Music Hall of Fame
“Known as “Little Miss Dynamite,” Brenda Lee was blessed with a powerful voice that belied her size. She could sing rockabilly, country and pop standards with equal conviction, and her versatility as an interpreter has allowed her a career of extraordinary longevity. … Lee’s impact can be summarized with a few statistics. She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and charted in more categories – including pop, rhythm & blues, rock, easy listening and country – than any other women in the history of recorded music.” -Rock & Roll Hall of Fame