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(TV) Arthur Lee: Late But Very Well Written
You need a Boston Globe daily subscription for a live link to this ,
so I'm posting entire obi.
Arthur Lee, at 61; leader of the '60s rock band Love
By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times | August 6, 2006
LOS ANGELES -- Arthur Lee, who forged a legacy as one of rock's great
visionaries and forbidding eccentrics while reigning briefly with his band
Love as princes of the mid-1960s Sunset Strip, died Thursday of leukemia in
a Memphis hospital. He was 61.
Mr. Lee, who established himself as the first black rock star of the
post-Beatles era, fronted Love through astonishing musical changes that have
continued to resonate for other rockers and a cult of critics and fans.
Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant cited the influence of Mr. Lee and Love in his
acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
But Love also became one of the first burnout bands of the 1960s, and with
Mr. Lee's death, only three members survive of the eight who were in the
band between 1965 and 1967.
Dogged by intra-band rivalries, substance abuse, and Mr. Lee's reluctance to
tour, the first version of Love was finished by 1968, although Mr. Lee
continued using the band name to record and perform at least sporadically
for the rest of his life.
He was imprisoned from 1996 to 2001 on a third-strike weapons charge, but
after his release he had new energy and a new story to tell that led to a
resurgence for a time in concerts, including a 2003 performance in London,
available on DVD, in which Mr. Lee was able to recreate Love's masterpiece
album, ``Forever Changes," backed by a sharp, four-man rock band and an
orchestra of horns and strings.
Love's first three albums were indeed forever changing. They yielded
eloquent folk-rock on the 1966 debut, ``Love," the first rock record ever
released by Elektra Records, and jazz-inflected rock with a flute player
added to the lineup on the follow-up, ``Da Capo." That album also included
the explosive hard rock of the band's lone Top Forty single, ``7 and 7 Is"
-- a song that ended with the sound of an atom bomb exploding and
foreshadowed late-'70s punk rock by 10 years. In 1967 came ``Forever
Changes," a gorgeous, haunting song cycle infused with classical horns and
Thematically, the album gave an emotionally undulating, impressionistic take
that captures sweet hopes from the ``Summer of Love" giving way to paranoia
and dread. ``Forever Changes" ranked 40th on a list that Rolling Stone
magazine compiled of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Yet it has
remained an overlooked treasure, reaching no higher than No. 154 on the
Billboard albums chart after its original release, and selling 103,000
copies since 1991 on CD reissues, according to SoundScan.
Besides helping to hasten rock's acquisition of a wide range of stylistic
possibilities, Love played a crucial role in Los Angeles' early rock
history. By 1965, the Byrds had created a Hollywood folk-rock scene at
Ciro's. When Mr. Lee and his guitar-playing boyhood friend, Johnny Echols,
saw the Byrds, they decided folk-rock was the way to go, rather than the
Booker T & the MGs-style rhythm and blues they had been playing.
``We didn't want to be stuck playing the Chitlin' Circuit," Echols said
Friday. ``We wanted to play this new kind of music." They quickly enlisted
the Byrds' guitar-strumming road manager, Bryan MacLean, who became
second-chair singer-songwriter to Mr. Lee.
Love's racially integrated lineup -- Mr. Lee and Echols were black, MacLean,
bassist Ken Forssi, and drummers Don Conka, Alban ``Snoopy" Pfisterer and
Michael Stuart were white -- forged a model that the Jimi Hendrix
Experience, Sly and the Family Stone, and War would follow to much greater
Intent on bringing his New York-based Elektra label into the rock era, Jac
Holzman rifled through newspaper club listings on a trip to Los Angeles,
thought the name Love looked interesting and checked out the band at Bido
Lito's in Hollywood.
Mr. Lee ``was one of those people you know is likely to do something
terrible to you or around you," Holzman said, ``but you like him so much and
he's so talented that you always support him."
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