NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Unforgettable songs like “Tennessee Waltz" and “(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window" made Patti Page the best-selling female singer of the 1950s and a star who would spend much of the rest of her life traveling the world.
When unspecified health problems finally stopped her decades of touring, though, Page wrote a sad-but-resolute letter to her fans late last year about the change.
“Although I feel I still have the voice God gave me, physical impairments are preventing me from using that voice as I had for so many years," Page wrote. “It is only He who knows what the future holds."
Page died on New Year's Day in Encinitas, Calif., according to publicist Schatzi Hageman, ending one of pop music's most diverse careers. She was 85 and just five weeks away from being honored at the Grammy Awards with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Page achieved several career milestones in American pop culture, but she'll be remembered for indelible hits that crossed the artificial categorizations of music and remained atop the charts for months to reach a truly national audience.
“Tennessee Waltz" scored the rare achievement of reaching No. 1 on the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously and was officially adopted as one of two official songs by the state of Tennessee. Its reach was so powerful, six other artists reached the charts the following year with covers.
Two other hits, “I Went To Your Wedding" and “Doggie in the Window," which had a second life for decades as a children's song, each spent more than two months at No. 1. Other hits included “Mockin' Bird Hill," “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," and “Allegheny Moon." She teamed with George Jones on “You Never Looked That Good When You Were Mine."
Page was one of the last surviving American singers who was popular in the pre-Elvis Presley era when songs on the pop charts leaned more toward innocence than rock 'n' roll's overt obsession with sex. Page proved herself something of a match for the rockers, continuing to place songs on the charts into the 1960s.
Page never kept track, but was told late in life that she'd recorded more than 1,000 songs. That's not what she had in her mind growing up as young Clara Ann Fowler.
“I was a kid from Oklahoma who never wanted to be a singer, but was told I could sing," she said in a 1999 interview. “And things snowballed."
Her popularity transcended music. She became the first singer to have television programs on all three major networks, including “The Patti Page Show" on ABC.
In films Page co-starred with Burt Lancaster in his Oscar-winning appearance of “Elmer Gantry."
She also starred on stage in the musical comedy “Annie Get Your Gun."
In 1999, after 51 years of performing, Page won her first Grammy for traditional pop vocal performance for “Live at Carnegie Hall — The 50th Anniversary Concert."