“Fever” is a song written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell, who used the pseudonym John Davenport. It was originally recorded by American R&B singer Little Willie John for his debut album, Fever (1956), and released as a single in April of the same year. The song topped the Billboard R&B Best Sellers in the US and peak at number 24 on the Billboard pop chart. It was received positively by music critics and included on several lists of the best songs during the time it was released.
It has been covered by numerous artists from various musical genres, most notably by Peggy Lee, whose 1958 rendition became the most widely known version of “Fever” and the singer’s signature song. Lee’s version contained rewritten lyrics different from the original and an altered music arrangement. It became a top-five hit on the music charts in the UK and Australia in addition to entering the top ten in the US and the Netherlands. “Fever” was nominated in three categories at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards in 1959, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Peggy Lee’s alluring tone, distinctive delivery, breadth of material, and ability to write many of her own songs made her one of the most captivating artists of the vocal era, from her breakthrough on the Benny Goodman hit “Why Don’t You Do Right” to her many solo successes, singles including “Mañana,” “Lover” and “Fever” that showed her bewitching vocal power, a balance between sultry swing and impeccable musicianship. Born Norma Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, she suffered the death of her mother at the age of four and endured a difficult stepmother after her father remarried. Given her sense of swing by listening to Count Basie on the radio, she taught herself to sing and made her radio debut at the age of 14. She made the jump to Fargo (where she was christened Peggy Lee), then to Minneapolis and St. Louis to sing with a regional band. Lee twice journeyed to Hollywood to make her fortune, but returned unsuccessful from both trips.