When Arthur Lee was diagnosed with leukaemia, he was confident he would get over it. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Lee died with his wife Diane by his side in Memphis on August 3rd. His long-term manager, Mark Linn, wrote a short statement which he posted on a fansite, which captured the feelings of Lee’s fans with its last line: “most of all I’ll miss Arthur playing Arthur’s music.”

It’s strange that Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee have died almost at the same time. Pioneers of the late 60s psychedelic movement, their careers both took the same turn at around the same time, as excessive drug use lead to serious mental health problems.

While Barrett lost control of his band after the release of their debut album 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn', Lee kept control of his band, Love, and, by the time they petered out in the 70's, he was the only original member left. After two solo albums, Barrett gave up on music completely, becoming a recluse. Lee disappeared for most of the 80's, but by the 90's he was ready to perform again.

His comeback was essentially down to his single-minded determination and his seemingly unshakable confidence in whatever he did. He often referred to himself as “the first black hippy” and often made comments about other bands and musicians ripping him off and stealing his thunder.

I remember reading an interview with him a few years ago, when I was in my late teens, in which he outrageously claimed: “I invented punk! ‘7 and 7 Is’ was the first punk song.” The next time I was in town, I got all the Love albums I could find out of the local library (I would have bought them, but I was poor at the time, so I wanted to make sure that I definitely liked Love first). The album I particularly enjoyed by Love was the first that I listened to, ‘Forever Changes’. The Spanish-esque guitars and brass of opener ‘Alone Again Or’ certainly wasn’t what I was expecting after the punk claim in the article, but I liked it. As the album went on, the more and more I got into it. By the end, I considered myself a Love fan.

Before forming Love, Lee played surf songs and Booker T and the MG’s style instrumentals with future Love guitarist Johnny Echols. Lee also wrote hit songs for a number of artists, including Rosa Lee Brooks and Little Ray. Lee had been writing folk rock songs around this time but was unsure how people would react to them. Then he heard the Byrds, who were playing songs in a similar style to his own. With new confidence, Lee formed a new band, the Grass Roots, who eventually became Love.

One of the most prominent bands in the Los Angeles Psychedelic folk scene, Love were quickly signed to Elektra, the label’s first rock band. Their first record, ‘Love’, did not sell particularly well, but featured a great cover of Bacharach and David’s ‘My Little Red Book’. Their next record, 'Da Capo', featured their only hit single, the aforementioned ‘7 and 7 Is’, as well as five other great songs. It was, however, let down by its second side, ‘Revelations,’ an ultra-extended blues jam. Their next album, ‘Forever Changes’, is regarded by most as a classic. Though partially a product of its time, it has stood the test of time a lot better than many other albums of the era (even ‘Sgt Pepper’s…’, though great, sounds very dated now).

The original line up disbanded after this, and subsequent albums never quite stood up to Love’s previous output. They split in the 70s', with Lee attempting a solo career. After that didn’t take off, Lee disappeared for a long time, tired after battling drug addiction and mental health problems.

He reappeared with a new incarnation of Love in the early 90's, after praise from new bands like Mazzy Star, who covered the Love song ‘Five String Serenade’.

A volatile personality, Lee ended up in prison in 1996 for illegal possession of a firearm, which he allegedly used to threaten his neighbour. Due to California’s three strikes law, Lee was sentenced to twelve years in prison and he served almost five of them.

After his release, Lee reformed Love for the second time, now known as Love with Arthur Lee. He continued to tour with Love until 2005.

Lee was diagnosed with leukaemia in April this year, but most of his fans expected him to bounce back, as he had so many times before. He didn’t, but if all of those who read about his death start listening to Love again (or for the first time) then some good has become of it.







Related Links:


http://www.lovearthurlee.com/
http://www.love-revisited.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-Lee-Love-56560602704/
https://www.facebook.com/LOVE-revisited-118131261541058/


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