Arthur Lee (musician)

Arthur Lee (musician)

Infobox musical artist
Name = Arthur Lee

Img_capt =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Arthur Taylor
Alias = Arthur Taylor Lee
Born = March 7, 1945
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Died = death date and age|2006|8|3|1945|3|7
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Origin =
Instrument =
vocals, guitar, harmonica, drums, percussion, tambourine, piano, organ, congas
Genre = Psychedelic rock, folk rock
Occupation = Musician, songwriter, producer
Years_active = 1963 - 2006
Labels = Capitol
Blue Thumb
Associated_acts = Love

Arthur Lee (March 7, 1945August 3, 2006) was the frontman, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of the Los Angeles rock band Love, best known for the critically acclaimed 1967 album, "Forever Changes".

Early years

Lee was born Arthur TaylorBarney Hoskyns, "Arthur Lee - Alone Again Or", 2001, ISBN 1-84195-085-5] in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Chester Taylor, a jazz cornet player and Agnes Taylor, a school teacher. Arthur and his mother moved to Los Angeles, California, when Arthur was five. In 1952 his mother married Clinton Lee, who adopted Arthur and legally changed his name to Arthur Taylor Lee.

In Los Angeles he attended Dorsey High School, where he excelled in basketball and track. He took an interest in performing music, having been exposed to and inspired by all kinds of music.


His first known recording is from 1963. "The Ninth Wave" was released by his first band, the instrumental outfit called The LAGs, a Booker T & The MG's type of unit which included Johnny Echols (future co-founder, guitarist and vocalist of Love), Lee (organ), Allan Talbert (saxophone) and Roland Davis (drums).

As a songwriter, Lee composed the surf songs "White Caps" and "Ski Surfin' Sanctuary". "My Diary" is the first Lee composition that came near to being a hit. It was written for the R&B singer Rosa Lee Brooks, who performed and recorded it. This recording included Jimi Hendrix on electric guitar. Lee had seen Jimi backing up the Isley Brothers. It is possible that this is the first appearance of Hendrix on vinyl and, indeed, the first known Hendrix recording session.

Lee wrote "I've Been Tryin'" for Little Ray. "Luci Baines", a song about President Lyndon Johnson's daughter, was performed and recorded with Lee's new band, The American Four. He composed "Everybody Jerk" and "Slow Jerk" for Ronnie And The Pomona Casuals, a band that put out an LP on the Donna label featuring lead vocals by Lee.

These early recordings are very rare but have been collected on a 1997 bootleg CD that contains very little information.


Lee said when he first heard The Byrds, he felt vindicated since he'd already been writing music that had a similar folk rock sound. In 1965, The Grass Roots, his folk rock unit, eventually turned into Love because there was already a signed act called The Grass Roots. Several other names were considered, including Summer's Children, The Asylum Choir, Dr Strangelove and Poetic Justice. The name Love was chosen after a club audience voted it as the best choice. According to Barney Hoskyns' 2001 book "Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or", Manson Family member and sometime Grass Roots guitarist Bobby Beausoleil claimed that Arthur had named the band Love in honor of one of Bobby's nicknames, Cupid.

Lee's early appearances were at clubs on Los Angeles' famed Sunset Strip. He played them all, including the Whisky a Go Go. However, it was at a tiny hole-in-the-wall club called Bido Lito's (located on a cul-de-sac known as Cosmo's Alley) that Lee first showed he had superstar potential. The Bido Lito's audience was always dotted by celebrities, including actor Sal Mineo, and rock stars Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix (who would go on to collaborate with Lee on several recording projects). There are some who say that Hendrix "borrowed" his outlandish dress style directly from Lee.

Love's music has been described as a mixture of folk-rock, psychedelic rock, baroque pop, Spanish-tinged pop, R&B, garage rock, and even protopunk, although actually, the term psychedelic isn't really the right term to describe most of the major contemporary Los Angeles bands at that time (The Doors, Love, The Byrds). Though Lee's vocals have garnered some comparisons to Johnny Mathis, his lyrics often dwell on matters dark and vexing, but often with a wry humor. The group's cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition "My Little Red Book" (first recorded by Manfred Mann for the soundtrack of "What's New, Pussycat?") received a thumbs-down from Bacharach: Love had altered the former Marlene Dietrich bandleader's chord changes. Nonetheless, the record was a Southern California hit and won Lee and Love a spot on "American Bandstand".

Love released three albums with core members Lee, Echols (lead guitar, vocals), Bryan MacLean (guitar, vocals) and Ken Forssi (bass). The drum chair revolved between Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer ("Love", "Seven & Seven Is") and Michael Stuart ("Da Capo" excepting "Seven & Seven Is", "Forever Changes"). However, it has been reported that Pfisterer found the demanding drum parts on "Seven & Seven Is" so exhausting that he and Arthur alternated takes, with Lee himself drumming on every other take.fact|date=May 2008 On "Da Capo", Tjay Cantrelli was added on saxophone and flute while Pfisterer was moved to organ and harpsichord. Both were out of the group by the time "Forever Changes" was recorded.

"Love" (1966) included their cover of "My Little Red Book". Side two of "Da Capo" (1967) featured just one song — "Revelation", criticised by some as a weary jam. The first side, however, contained six individual songs, including their only single to achieve any success in the Billboard Top 40 chart: "Seven & Seven Is". "Forever Changes" (1967) followed, the album a centerpiece of the group's psychedelic-tinged sound, bolstered by the arrangements of David Angel.

"Forever Changes" is regarded by critics and fans alike as Love's finest recording, and one of the best records of the '60s. Despite this acclaim, the LP sold poorly in its time, although it reached the top 30 in the UK. Nonetheless, its cult status grew.

After "Forever Changes", the band managed to record one more non-album single ("Your Mind and We Belong Together" b/w "Laughing Stock") which was released in June of 1968 and failed to chart. Love then dissolved, only to have Lee revive the group name shortly thereafter. The new Love featured an all-new lineup (Lee himself being the only holdover) and a harder-edged sound. This version of the band released "Four Sail" in September 1969, the two-record set "Out Here" in December of the same year, and "False Start" in December 1970. Neither of the first two albums made the top 100 in the US, though "Out Here" hit #29 in the UK in May 1970. "False Start" hit the bottom regions of the top 200, and is notable for featuring a track with Jimi Hendrix on guitar entitled "The Everlasting First". The song bemoaned the losses of Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King Jr., in a more straightforward, if no less emotional, fashion than that heard in other Lee lyrics.

olo career

In July 1972, Lee released his first solo album, "Vindicator", on A&M Records, featuring a new group of musicians called Band-Aid, a name originally suggested by Jimi Hendrix for a briefly considered lineup of himself, Lee, and Steve Winwood. This album failed to chart. Lee recorded a second solo album in 1973 entitled "Black Beauty" for Buffalo Records, but the label folded before the album was released.

Lee's next move was to credit the backing group for "Black Beauty" as a new Love for the soulful "Reel to Real" album which was released on RSO Records in December 1974. Once again, the album went nearly unnoticed.

A new Lee solo album — called just "Arthur Lee" — appeared on Rhino Records in 1981, featuring covers of The Bobbettes' "Mr Lee" and Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross".

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, there were various attempts to reunite the original Love lineup. One such show from 1978 featuring Lee and Bryan Maclean was released as a live album entitled "Love Live" on Rhino Records in 1982. Also in 1982, MCA released "Studio/Live", which was a collection of tracks from the early 1970s incarnation of Love.

The 1980s were a mostly fallow period for Lee. According to him: "I was gone for a decade. I went back to my old neighbourhood to take care of my father, who was dying of cancer. I was tired of signing autographs. I was tired of being BS'd out of my money....I just got tired."

Lee didn't re-emerge until 1992, with a new album entitled "Arthur Lee & Love" on the French New Rose label. Lee also played a few gigs around this time with Mick and John Head of legendary Liverpool bands "Shack" and "The Pale Fountains" Playing shows in Liverpool & France.In 1993 he played shows in New York and England. The next year saw the release of a 45rpm single — "Girl on Fire", backed with "Midnight Sun" — on Distortions Records. He began to tour regularly with a backup band comprising former members of Das Damen, and LA group Baby Lemonade.

In 1995, Rhino Records released the compilation "Love Story", a two-disc set with extensive liner notes which chronicled the period 1966-1972, and reignited interest in the band. In fact, the original Love planned to reform and tour in promotion of the compilation, but Arthur's legal troubles got in the way.


In the autumn of 1996, Arthur Lee was sentenced to 12 years for illegal possession of a firearm. Lee was convicted of negligent discharge of a firearm. California's three strikes law meant Lee was forced to serve a prison term, having previously been convicted on "a couple of assault and drug charges" in the 1980s.Fact|date=February 2007 While in prison Lee refused visitors and interviews. Former bandmates Bryan Maclean and Ken Forssi both died while Lee was incarcerated, forever ending any speculation as to a full-fledged Love reunion.

On December 12, 2001, Lee was released from prison, having served 5 1/2 years of his original sentence. A federal appeals court in California reversed the charge of negligent discharge of a firearm, as it found that the prosecutor at Lee's trial was guilty of misconduct. After Lee was freed, he toured with yet a new incarnation of Love in 2002, playing all of "Forever Changes". Over the next few years he continued to perform, receiving such accolades as a Living Legend Award at the 2004 NME Awards.

Final years

In 2002, Arthur Lee began touring in earnest under the name "Love with Arthur Lee". This new phase of his career met with great success, and he performed to enthusiastic audiences and critical acclaim throughout Europe, North America and Australia. Arthur Lee and The LOVE band (aka) Baby Lemonade, who first performed with Arthur in May of 1993 at Raji's, began in 2002 to perform the "Forever Changes" album in its entirety, often with a string and horn section. A live CD and DVD of this material was released in 2003. Two Love tracks, "My Little Red Book" (from 'Love') and "Always See Your Face" (from "Four Sail"), appeared on the soundtrack of the John Cusack adaptation of Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity". "7 & 7 Is" in "Point Break". Many of Arthur's songs have been in other various films as well.

Johnny Echols joined the group for a performance at Royce Hall, UCLA, in 2003, then again for the continuing & final tours 2004 to 2005. Because of Arthur Lee's illness, the details of which were not known by the band at the time, he could not do the final tour in July of 2005. Since no one knew of his illness, Arthur's decision to forgo the final tour was met with confused reactions. The remaining members of the band, along with Johnny Echols, continued to perform at the venues of the last tour (July 2005) without Arthur, under the name The Love Band.

At the end of September 2005 Arthur moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he planned and looked forward to continue to make music and continue the name Love. Joining him was to be drummer Greg Roberson (Reigning Sound, Her Majesty's Buzz, Compulsive Gamblers) to put together a new lineup in Memphis, which was to include Adam Woodard, Alex Greene (The Reigning Sound, Big Ass Truck), Jack "Oblivian" Yarber, Alicja Trout, and Johnny Echols from the original Love line-up. Ultimately Arthur's ill health prevented this from happening.fact|date=September 2008

In April 2006 it was publically announced that Arthur was being treated for acute myeloid leukemia. A tribute fund was set up shortly after the announcement, with a series of benefit concerts to be performed to help pay medical bills. The most notable of these concerts was produced by Steve Weitzman of SW Productions at New York's Beacon Theater on June 23, 2006, and featured Robert Plant, Ian Hunter, Ryan Adams, Nils Lofgren, Yo La Tengo, Garland Jeffreys, Johnny Echols (Love's original lead guitarist) and Flashy Python & The Body Snatchers (featuring Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). Robert Plant, backed by Ian Hunter's band performed twelve songs, including five Led Zeppelin songs and five recorded by Love in the 60s ("Seven And Seven Is", "A House Is Not A Motel", "Bummer In The Summer", "Old Man" and "Hey Joe").

Later in 2006, despite several months of aggressive treatment which included three bouts of chemotherapy followed by a Stem Cell Transplant done on May 25, 2006 using stem cells from an umbilical cord blood donor, of which he was the first adult patient in Tennessee to receive this treatment—his condition worsened, and Lee passed away quitely & peacefully on August 3, 2006, at Memphis, TN's Methodist University Hospital, with his wife Diane at his side.


Lee was often comparedWho|date=August 2008 to Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson.

Since Lee's passing, a number of Arthur Lee websites [ [ The Love Society ] ] have appeared online. Moreover, Lee was memorialized by both fans and friends. The most notable of these memorials was written by Stuart Goldman, [ [ My Turn to Rant! ] ] who had known and written about Lee ever since his early days on the Sunset Strip.

In Arthur's absence, many current artists such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Dears, Siddhartha (Marlon Hauser), Na mes and Fa ces, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Apollo Heights and Yo La Tengo cite Arthur's music as a major influence.Fact|date=August 2008


With Love

*"Love" (1966)
*"Da Capo" (1967)
*"Forever Changes" (1967)
*"Four Sail" (1969)
*"Out Here" (1969)
*"Love Revisited" (1970)
*"False Start" (1970)
*"Dear You (unreleased Love album for CBS)" (1970)
*"Reel to Real" (1974)
*"Love Live" (1982)
*"Studio/Live" (1982)
*"Arthur Lee & Love" (1992)
*"Love Story" (1995)
*"Love On Earth Must Be" (1996)
*"The Best of Love" (2003)
*"The Forever Changes Concert" (2003)

olo albums

*"Vindicator" (1972)
*"Black Beauty" (1973)
*"More Changes" (1977)
*"Arthur Lee" (1981)

Other collaborations

*"Arthur Lee Live in Liverpool with Shack" (Viper Records 2000)


External links

*allmusicguide | id = 11:ajfwxqy5ldke~T1 | label = Arthur Lee
* [ Official Arthur Lee tribute site]
* [ Torben's Love Page]
* [ The Love Society]
* [ Death as reported on official band webform (no obituary available yet)]
* [ Arthur Lee dead at 61] on
* [ Arthur Lee article] at BBC News
* [ In-depth biographical obituary about Lee and his cultural importance]
* [ Profile of Arthur Lee] at Find A Grave

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