RIP Arthur Lee
- The wreck of the Arthur Lee will never return again.
Arthur Lee, 61, a Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Is Dead
By BEN SISARIO
Published: August 5, 2006
Arthur Lee, the leader of Love, a pioneering 1960's psychedelic rock
band, died on Thursday in Memphis. He was 61.
The cause was complications of leukemia, said Mark Linn, his manager.
With eccentric songs that joined the jangly guitars of folk-rock with
urgent, angry rhythms and yet also leaned toward sophisticated pop
with delicate horn and string arrangements, Love was one of the
defining groups of the psychedelic era in Los Angeles. Though the band
never reached the levels of stardom enjoyed by the Byrds and the Doors
— unlike them, Love rarely toured — it had a wide and lasting
Love's 1967 album "Forever Changes" was a milestone of pop ambition,
with melodic acoustic guitars, elaborate orchestrations and, in songs
with titles like "Alone Again Or" and "Maybe the People Would Be the
Times or Between Clark and Hilldale," a studied inscrutability.
Celebrated by critics as one of the most affecting and beguiling
albums of the time, it was ranked No. 40 in Rolling Stone's list of
the 500 greatest albums, published in 2003.
A recent benefit concert for Mr. Lee's medical expenses, at the Beacon
Theater in Manhattan, indicated the breadth of Love's legacy. Among
those performing were Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Ian Hunter of Mott
the Hoople and Nils Lofgren, along with younger musicians like Ryan
Adams, Yo La Tengo and Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Rangy and invariably slouching, in tiny-frame shades and dandyish,
kaleidoscopically colored clothes, Mr. Lee called himself "the first
black hippie," and his band pushed boundaries. Love was one of the
first major interracial bands in rock, and one of the first to record
a song long enough to fill one side of an album, with the 19-minute
"Revelation," from its second release, "Da Capo."
Born in Memphis, Mr. Lee moved with his family to Los Angeles when he
was 5, and played in many teenage bands before settling on the lineup
that would become Love. Another member was Bryan MacLean, a blond
guitarist who had been a roadie with the Byrds.
Love took the Sunset Strip rock scene by storm in 1965 with catchy but
shifty songs, as playful as they were dark. Even in their sweetest
moments, disorientation and nightmarish paranoia were never far away.
"I feel like I have been through hell/ When you tell me I haven't even
started yet," Mr. Lee sang in "Your Mind and We Belong Together."
The band lived in a house once owned by Bela Lugosi, and the covers of
its first two albums show the members in the garden there.
Little known outside California, Love had only one Top 40 hit, "Alone
Again Or," written by Mr. MacLean, who died in 1998. But in Los
Angeles Mr. Lee was a scene maker. He lobbied for his label, Elektra,
to sign the Doors, who looked up to Love, then quickly surpassed it.
By the late 1960's, Love fell apart as its members confronted drug
problems, though Mr. Lee continued on his own. In 1970 he recorded an
album's worth of material with his old friend Jimi Hendrix, though
only one track, "The Everlasting First," was released. He persisted
through the 1970's but by the 80's had largely disappeared.
He toured again in the early 1990's, and seemed on the verge of
reviving his career, when in 1996 he was imprisoned for illegal gun
possession. He served almost half of a 12-year sentence at Pleasant
Valley State Prison in Coalinga, Calif.
He is survived by his wife, Diane.
When he was released from prison, in mid-2002, he began to tour almost
immediately. He was widely praised by critics for the intensity and
focus of his performances, though some noted that a few dark and
frightened lyrics of Mr. Lee's youth were now bitterly appropriate,
including: "Served my time, served it well/ You made my soul a cell."