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RIP Arthur Lee

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  • Carl Z.
    The wreck of the Arthur Lee will never return again. Arthur Lee, 61, a Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Is Dead
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2006
      The wreck of the Arthur Lee will never return again.


      Arthur Lee, 61, a Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Is Dead

      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."
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