Barbara Lea

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Barbara Lea
Birth name Barbara Ann LeCocq
Born (1929-04-10)April 10, 1929
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died December 26, 2011(2011-12-26) (aged 82)
Raleigh, North Carolina
Genres Jazz, swing, dixieland, cabaret
Occupation(s) Singer, actress
Years active 1951–2007
Labels Fantasy, Challenge, Audiophile

Barbara Lea (April 10, 1929 – December 26, 2011) was an American actress and singer.

Music career[edit]

Lea was born into a musical family. Her great-uncle, Charles Lecocq, composed light opera.[citation needed] Her father changed his name to Leacock and she shortened it to Lea when she began working professionally. She grew up in a suburb of Detroit, attending the all-female Kingswood School.

Lea sang with Marian McPartland, Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, Frankie Newton, Johnny Windhurst, and George Wein. She worked with dance bands before attending Wellesley College on a scholarship and studied music theory. She sang in the choir, worked on the campus radio station and newspaper, and arranged for and conducted the Madrigal Group and brass choir concerts.

Her professional career started after graduation. Her early recordings for Riverside Records and Prestige met with critical acclaim. She was named Best New Singer in the Down Beat International Critics' Poll for 1956.[1] She appeared in small clubs in New York City and throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada, as well as on radio and TV.

Lea studied acting to improve her stage presence. She acted in a variety of roles from Shakespeare to Sondheim. She moved to the West Coast and received her master's degree in drama at California State University, Northridge, then returned to New York and taught speech at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and acting at Hofstra University.

In the 1970s, Lea was invited to the National Public Radio series American Popular Song with Alec Wilder and Friends. In 1976, she appeared in two shows, one featuring the songs of Willard Robison and one featuring songs performed and recorded by Lee Wiley.[2]

Lea appeared in the JVC, Kool, and Newport Jazz Festivals several times, but her increasing devotion to the songs as written led to concerts of the works of Rodgers and Hart, Arthur Schwartz, Cy Coleman, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, and the Gershwins, as well as cabaret appearances devoted to Kurt Weill, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and Yip Harburg.[3]

She died in 2011 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.[4][5][6][7]


In the New Yorker magazine, Whitney Balliett said, "Barbara Lea has no superior among popular singers". (New Yorker, May 20, 1985, p. 88)


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-09. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Obituary
  6. ^ Margalit Fox (January 1, 2012). "Barbara Lea, Cabaret Singer, Dies at 82". The New York Times. 
  7. ^

External links[edit]