He was one of the most influential Psychedelic Rock singers and songwriters of all time
Love singer Arthur Lee was born 75 years ago
Arthur Porter Taylor was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 7, 1945. Lee grew interested in music from an early age, his first musical instrument was the accordion, which he took lessons in from a teacher. He adapted to reading music and developed a good ear and natural musical intelligence. While he was never formally taught about musical theory and composition, he was able to mimic musicians from records and compose his own songs and eventually, he persuaded his parents to buy him an organ and harmonica. By 1965 he had formed the L.A band Love, which became one of the most followed and appreciated locally. Lee’s early appearances were at clubs in Hollywood, including the Brave New World; Hullabaloo; Bido Lito’s; and the Sea Witch, staples of the 1960’s Rock bands. The Bido Lito’s audience was sometimes dotted with celebrities, including actor Sal Mineo, and rock star Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, who would go on to collaborate with Lee on future recording projects. Lee then got the opportunity to play the larger Whisky a Go-Go on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, after which Love received a recording contract by Elektra Records, also making Love the first Rock act to be signed by Elektra. A mixture of folk-rock, psychedelic rock, baroque pop, Spanish-tinged pop, R&B, garage rock, and even protopunk, Love’s music played heavily on his compositions, and he has been regarded as “the first punk rocker” but wasn’t flattered by the phrase as he thought the term punk meant “being somebody’s bitch or something like that.” Their first album, “Love”, was released in 1966 and included a cover of the song “My Little Red Book”, that became a hit. Also in 1966, they released another influential album, “Da Capo” in which the B-Side featured just one song, “Revelation”. The side 1 included their only single to achieve any success in the Billboard Top 40 chart: “7 and 7 Is”. In 1967 Love released what is viewed by many as their masterpiece, “Forever Changes”. The Psychedelic/Baroque Pop album included some of their finest compositions including “Alone Again Or”.
Despite this, the LP sold moderately in its time (reaching #154 on the Top 200 albums, and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks, without the benefit of a hit single), although it reached the top 30 in the UK. Nonetheless, its cult status grew. The time did justice to the album when in 2012, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Forever Changes 40th in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Arthur Lee was also pivotal on The Doors being signed to Elektra. A friend with Jim Morrison, who stated that Love was his favorite band, Lee suggested The Doors to Elektra’s head Jac Holtzman which lead to the band being signed and overshadowing Love in the label. By 1968 turmoil within Love made it harder for the band to go on and the original line up started to break up. Arthur Lee went on to start his solo career in 1972 but without the same visibility, he was able to have with Love. In 1996 he was convicted to 12 years in prison for the negligent discharge of a firearm. California’s three strikes law meant Lee was forced to serve a prison term, having previously served two years in jail for arson, and having been charged with various drug, driving and assault offenses. He was released in 2001 and put together a new incarnation of Love with whom he toured successfully around the globe, giving him the taste of recognition he failed to achieve back in the 1960’s. Arthur Lee underwent several months of treatment for leukemia, including chemotherapy and an experimental stem cell transplant using stem cells from an umbilical cord blood donor. His condition continued to worsen, and he died from complications of the disease in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2006 at the age of 61. Today, his music legacy remains stronger than ever.
Watch Love performing “My Little Red Book” at the American Bandstand TV show in 1966
Listen to “The Best Of Love” on Spotify
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