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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 11:37 GMT
Jazz star Anita O'Day dies at 87
Anita O'Day
O'Day often boasted about having never had a singing lesson
US jazz singer Anita O'Day, one of the most celebrated vocalists of the 1940s and '50s, has died at the age of 87.

She died in her sleep from a cardiac arrest in a Los Angeles hospital where she had been recovering from pneumonia, her manager said in a statement.

Best known for her renditions of Sweet Georgia and Honeysuckle Rose, she was known as the "Jezebel of Jazz" for her wild, drug-related behaviour.

Indestructible!, her first album in 13 years, was released earlier this year.

Born in 1919, she had no formal training and began her career singing for tips and participating in marathon dance contests.

She had her first hit, Let Me Off Uptown, with the Gene Krupa band in 1941.

All I ever wanted to do is perform. When I'm singing, I'm happy
Anita O'Day
Her stylised performances and unique interpretations of familiar standards inspired many singers.

Off stage, however, her life was blighted by alcoholism and heroin abuse.

O'Day wrote candidly about her drug addiction in her 1981 memoir, High Times, Hard Times.

"I tried everything," she once said. "Curiosity will make you go your own way."

In 1997 she received a lifetime achievement award from the US National Endowment of the Arts.

She spent the last years of her life singing at various Los Angeles night spots.

"All I ever wanted to do is perform," she told the Associated Press in 1999. "When I'm singing, I'm happy."

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