Yet another music pioneer from the 1960’s has passed away. This time, it’s Arthur Lee, who died of leukemia at age 61.
Arthur Lee was the leader of Love, one of the most prominent L.A. bands during the height of the psychedelic era in the 1960’s and one of my favorite bands of all time. Although Love was little known to the public outside of southern California, only released three albums, and rarely toured, its influence on rock was huge. Lee was also an unusual character and liked to say that he was the “first black hippie” (Love was one of the very first multiracial rock bands), and in the 1990’s he got into trouble with the law for illegal gun possession. Love’s album Forever Changes was without a doubt one of the best albums to emerge from the year of the Summer of Love or, for that matter, the entire history of rock. It had rather strange song titles (one instance, The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This, echoes of which can be found even today in the equally strange song titles that, for example, Sufjan Stevens used in Illinois last year and The Avalanche this year and–now that I think of it–in Stevens’ songs themselves), but the music was lush and melodic, a fusion of folk-rock and psychedelia, overlaid with carefully constructed orchestral arrangements. Forever Changes is also one of the best-recorded rock albums of the 1960’s, its production values easily rivaling those of a little Beatles album released the same year (you know, that little thing called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). It’s definitely an album that rewards repeated listenings and an essential part of any serious rock fan’s music collection.
Perhaps I’ll pull out the CD today and listen yet again. If you haven’t heard this masterpiece before, I highly recommend it. If you like folk or psychedelia even a little bit, you won’t be disappointed.