Found Performance: “Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee


I consider this Capitol Record’s release to be in the category of very weird, but “likable”! In 1969 it was a #11 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 and, over at the Adult Contemporary Chart, it rose to #1.  In Canada, the single peaked at #6. “Is That All There Is?,” performed by jazz and pop legend Peggy Lee, was penned by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. These guys were incredible songwriters and a few of their other hits included “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion Number 9, “Charlie Brown,” “Yakety Yak,” and “Jackson.” The orchestral arrangement was composed by Randy Newman, who was credited with plunking away at the piano on the song’s intro.

This was Peggy Lee’s last single to make it into the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100. And, after “Fever” had been a smash eleven years before, it was her first Hot 100 repeat appearance. On the strength of  “Is That All There Is?,” she won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1970, and in 1999 she was awarded a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

For anyone wondering about the state of mind of the singer, or the outlook on life expressed in the song, Wikipedia has an explanation: “The lyrics are told from the point of view of a person who is disillusioned with events in life that are unusual experiences. The singer tells of witnessing her family’s house on fire when she was a little girl, seeing the circus, and falling in love for the first time. After each recital, she expresses her disappointment in the experience. She suggests that we “break out the booze and have a ball—if that’s all there is,” instead of worrying about life. She explains that she’ll never kill herself either because she knows that death will be a disappointment as well. The verses of the song are spoken, rather than sung. Only the refrain of the song is sung.”

This TV appearance by Peggy Lee was on NBC’s “Kraft Music Hall,” with host Johnny Cash. It was broadcast at 9:00 p.m. on Wed. December 10, 1969. The performance was contemporary with when the song was a hit. The audio and video tracks have been  enhanced to improve the overall quality. Personally, I think it is historically an interesting performance and video. Take look at the way it was shot by the camera operators.


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Steven Smith

Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

8 thoughts on “Found Performance: “Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee

  1. Steve ~ Peggy’s song didn’t include the sad ending with the singer choosing to kill herself, but if you’d like a little death and mayhem we need to go to Peggy’s hit “Fever” (which my son, while still a pre-schooler, always referred to as “The Headache Song”) and the original singer/songwriter Little Willie John. And for added connection it all took place right here in Washington state! It seems Willie was convicted of manslaughter in 1965 for the ’64 stabbing death of Kendall Roundtree in Seattle! He was sent to Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla and on May 26, 1968 died in prison at the age of 30 of a heart attack.
    There you go! It took a little maneuvering but we finally got our death and mayhem!

  2. Jay…you are correct….she explains that she thought about ending it all, but decided it would be such a disappointment that she would pass on the opportunity. It is really captivating but weird lyrics. Hard to believe it was written by the guys who wrote Yakety Yak.

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