Brenda Mae Tarpley (born December 11, 1944), better known as Brenda Lee, is an American performer who sang rockabilly, pop and country music, and had 37 US chart hits during the 1960s, a number surpassed only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis. She is best known for her 1960 hit "I'm Sorry", and 1958's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", a US holiday standard for more than 50 years.
At 4 ft 9 inches tall, she received the nickname Little Miss Dynamite in 1957 after recording the song "Dynamite"; and was one of the earliest pop stars to have a major contemporary international following.
Lee achieved her biggest success on the pop charts in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s with rockabilly and rock and roll-styled songs. Her biggest hits included "Jambalaya", "Sweet Nothin's" (No. 4) (written by country musician Ronnie Self), "I Want to Be Wanted" (No. 1), "All Alone Am I" (No. 3) and "Fool #1" (No. 3). She had more hits with the more pop-based songs "That's All You Gotta Do" (No. 6), "Emotions" (No. 7), "You Can Depend on Me" (No. 6), "Dum Dum" (No. 4), 1962's "Break It To Me Gently" (No. 2), "Everybody Loves Me But You" (No. 6), and "As Usual" (No. 12).
The biggest-selling track of Lee's career was a Christmas song. In 1958, when she was 13, producer Owen Bradley asked her to record a new song by Johnny Marks, who had had success writing Christmas tunes for country singers, most notably "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (Gene Autry) and "A Holly, Jolly Christmas" (Burl Ives). Lee recorded the song, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree", in July with a prominent twanging guitar part by Hank Garland. Decca released it as a single that November, but it sold only 5,000 copies, and did not do much better when it was released again in 1959. However, it eventually sold more than five million copies.
In 1960, she recorded her signature song, "I'm Sorry", which hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart. It was her first gold single and was nominated for a Grammy. Even though it was not released as a country song, it was among the first big hits to use what was to become the Nashville sound - a string orchestra and legato harmonized background vocals. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" got noticed in its third release a few months later, and sales snowballed; the song remains a perennial favorite each December and is the record with which she is most identified by contemporary audiences.
Her last top ten single on the pop charts was 1963's "Losing You" (No. 6), while she continued to have other chart songs such as her 1966 song "Coming On Strong" and "Is It True?" in 1964. The latter, featuring Jimmy Page on guitar, was her only hit single recorded in London, England and was produced by Mickie Most.
She is a member of the Rock and Roll, Country Music, Rockabilly and Hit Parade Halls of Fame. Lee currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2008, her recording of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" marked 50 years as a holiday standard, and in February 2009, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave Lee a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.