Friday, August 04, 2006

R.I.P. Arthur Lee: The everlasting first

Got the news from LAist this morning that Arthur Lee, the founder and moving force behind the band Love, died yesterday in Memphis from leukemia.

If you have never heard either of the Love albums, Forever Changes or Da Capo, don't waste any time in getting them in your CD rotation NOW! Forever Changes is both of its time (1967), with its Herb Alpertesque horn solos and elaborate arrangements, and amazingly undated. Although Arthur Lee was unquestionably the band's leader, his brashness was balanced and transformed by the gentle artistry of Bryan McLean. Forever Changes has occupied the #1 spot in my car's CD changer as long as I've owned the car.

Lee was a complicated guy--when I saw him in 2003 at B.B. King's, backed by Baby Lemonade, I thought at first that his voice was gone, since he started each song in a near-croak. But the voice was there, and he hit all the high notes. He was just messing with us. And with the club's security team, who threatened him when Lee refused to yield the stage at the end of his set. (Also in the concert that night, which was a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, was Noel Redding, Hendrix's bass player. He looked like a kindly science teacher from the comprehensive, and played like an angel. He passed away shortly after that concert.)

A good way to remember Lee is to watch the YouTube videos posted on LAist.

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