Arthur Lee, 1945-2006

For the second time in less than a month, an influential but highly enigmatic musical figure from the Summer of Love has passed away. Arthur Lee was the leader of Love, a California-based psychedelic band who combined aggressive hard rock and hippie mysticism in a way that acts like Led Zeppelin and Lee's close friend Jimi Hendrix would emulate a few years later. Love was unique for its day in that it was multi-racial; Lee was black, and the original band had a couple of Asian members as well. Love first gained significant attention with their second album Da Capo, released on New Year's Day, 1967. Songs like the proto-punk single "7 And 7 Is" and "She Comes In Colors" deserve to be considered classics of the era, and the 18-minute "Revelation," which took up all of side two, set a new standard for song length. The follow-up, 1968's Forever Changes, remains a mandatory inclusion on any critical survey of the 100 greatest rock albums. This album had some dark moments, though, as Lee seemed convinced his days were numbered. Lee hung around, but his behavior afterwards became increasingly unpredictable. He repeatedly changed Love's line-up over the next few years, but none of his subsequent output generated anywhere near the same interest or critical approval as Forever Changes did. Eventually he started getting in trouble with the law. In 1996, Lee was arrested after firing a gun into the air. Nobody was hurt and no property was damaged by the incident, but California has a rigid three-strikes-and-you're-out law and this was Lee's third strike. Lee's original jail sentence carried a term of fifteen years, but he was released in 2001. Free from prison, Lee went back on the road with a new version of Love. The shows were very well-received, and for the first time Lee seemed happy with himself and his musical legacy. Unfortunately he ran out of luck earlier this year, when he was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of leukemia. Lee had no insurance, and several benefit concerts were held for Lee, including one at New York City's Beacon Theater hosted and headlined by Robert Plant. The money helped offset the medical costs, but regrettably couldn't benefit his health. Lee passed away on August 3, at age 61. His career had many ups and downs, but Forever Changes and the first half of Da Capo are required listening for anyone interested in the rock music of the sixties.
Digg This

No comments: