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Brenda Lee

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  • Lithonia-born Brenda Lee is a hitmaker best known for the 1960 song "I'm Sorry."

    Lithonia-born Brenda Lee is a hitmaker best known for the 1960 song "I'm Sorry."

  • Brenda Lee, born in 1944 as Brenda Mae Tarpley, earned her first recording contract in 1956.

    Brenda Lee, born in 1944 as Brenda Mae Tarpley, earned her first recording contract in 1956.

Born into a poor Lithonia family in 1944, Brenda Lee (born Brenda Mae Tarpley) was a musical prodigy, supporting her family with her voice beginning in 1953 after her father was killed in a construction accident. The huge, inimitable voice (coming from a 4-foot-9-inch frame) and fearless stage presence conspired to earn her a professional career before she’d even reached her teens. An early hit provided Lee with a lifelong nickname, "Little Miss Dynamite."

By the late '50s, Lee was notching pop hits as a rockabilly-styled singer, and landed more songs on the charts in the '60s than any other woman (being exceeded only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Ray Charles). The two songs for which she’s best known, however, are 1960’s "I’m Sorry," a ballad that was one of the first songs to use the Chet Atkins- and Owen Bradley-devised "Nashville Sound" (consisting of such elements as strings and backing vocals) and the 1958 holiday perennial "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

Lee, who once had The Beatles as her opening act on a United Kingdom tour, has been phenomonally successful in the United States and abroad for more than five decades.  She has sold more than 100 million records and received numerous honors and accolades, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and is still performing for audiences all over the world today.