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Barbara Lea was born Barbara Ann Le Cocq in Detroit, Michigan, on April 10, 1929. Her family moved to the suburb of Melvindale in 1932. Times were bleak in the 1930s and she had her first job at the age of 7 delivering newspapers. She also took piano and tap dancing lessons. She went to public schools in Melvindale and in Detroit when the family moved back in 1940, and then later attended high school at Kingswood School Cranbrook.
Barbara's whole family was musical and there were always pianos and ukuleles in the house, which everyone took turns playing. Her father had been a clarinetist; her brother played trumpet and harmonica. The family entertainment was gathering around the piano and singing while her mother played. By the age of 6 or 7, she had decided on a career as a singer.
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Twenty years ago a very promising young singer named Barbara Lea, who reminded some listeners of Lee Wiley, was beginning to make an impression on records and in clubs such as the Village Vanguard. But suddenly nothing more was heard of her-- because, it now turns out, she began studying acting to improve her presence as a singer and, through this, went into the theatre. Two decades have changed Miss Lea from a demure, sweet-faced college girl fresh out of Wellesley to a mature, assured, strong-featured woman. And her voice has grown to match her appearance. There are still echoes of Lee Wiley when Miss Lea sings, but her voice has acquired a depth, a deep velvet sound in her chest tones that carries smoothly into the upper register, enabling her to color her songs with exquisite shading and dynamics
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