Andrew Freedman, Mrs Kitt's longstanding agent, announced last night that she had lost a long battle against colon cancer on Christmas morning at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
Her daughter and manager, Kitt Shapiro, was at her side.
Actor-director Orson Welles once called Kitt “the most exciting woman alive” and, along with Lena Horne, she was one of the first African-American sex symbols.
Kitt picked up a string of awards during her long career, winning two Emmys and being nominated for a third, as well as a Grammy. Her hit songs included “C’est Si Bon,” “Let’s Do It” and “Just an Old Fashioned Girl.” She also was widely associated with Christmas because of her hit “Santa Baby.” The song, recorded in 1953, went gold this year and she received the gold record before she died, Freedman said.
Orson Welles, perhaps her most important mentor, once described her as "the most exciting girl in the world." Kitt carried on performing almost to the end, appearing in dozens of TV shows in recent years, and making her final public appearance in Chicago last month to perform in a PBS special about her life and career, which is due to be screened in February.
The Los Angeles Times called Ochs "America's preeminent rock 'n' roll photo archivist" and described his archive as "the dominant force in the rock image marketplace".
The cancer was detected about two years ago and treated but recurred after a period of remission. She had been performing until two months ago,” Freedman told Reuters by telephone from Los Angles.
“We had dates booked through 2009.” Slinky, sensuous and cat-like, Kitt described herself as a “sex kitten” and used her seductive purr to charm audiences across the world.
Despite those accolades, Kitt may have been at her best in her nightclub act, which allowed her to use her feline, seductive manner to its fullest. “If there was ever an opportunity to do a small intimate venue with about 150 people, that was always her preference.” BLACKBALLED Kitt was blackballed in America for speaking out against the Vietnam War in the 1960s — most notoriously at a White House luncheon in the company of first lady Lady Bird Johnson.
Kitt then began performing in Europe, where she had been popular early in her career, and eventually returned to the United States to great acclaim.