We are sad to report that Arthur Lee—the legendary and controversial frontman of the band Love—passed away in the hospital Thursday afternoon with his wife Diane by his side.  He was 61, and died of complications resulting from leukemia.  


Arthur Lee was the vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and difficult genius behind the San Francisco rock group Love, whose 1967 album Forever Changes is regarded by many (including David Tibet of Current 93, as well as British Parliament) as the one of best albums of all time.

Arthur Lee and Love fused psychedelia with folk-rock and light orchestral pop, adopting a difficult, standoffish punk attitude in public but writing introspective, surrealistic lyrics that were at turns pessimistic and inspirational.  Love's songs have been covered by The Damned, Calexico and many others, and their influence on modern rock and pop music is incalculable.The announcement of Lee's death comes only a couple weeks after news that Syd Barrett passed away.  Lee and Barrett were two of the most enigmatic musicians of the 1960s, both of whose storied drug exploits and insane off-stage behavior often overshadowed discussions of their art.

Lee spent much of his life addicted to heroin and other substances, and was in and out of prison for the last twenty years.  When he was released from a long stretch of prison time in 2003, after years of absence from the scene, Lee reformed Love with members of L.A. band Baby Lemonade and launched the Forever Changes reunion tour, culminating in a performance of the complete album at the Royal Festival Music Hall in London, with a full string and horn section, gloriously captured on the Forever Changes Concert DVD.  However, Lee's demons continued to haunt him, and when I witnessed Love's performance in 2004 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Lee was in bad shape.  Although original guitarist Johnny Echols appeared with Love that night, Lee spent most of the show sitting on the stage next to the drumset, had forgotten almost all of the lyrics to his songs, and his bandmates were forced to fill in on vocals.  I can't say I was surprised by this news, but I am no less saddened.

Some classic Arthur Lee and Love clips courtesty of YouTube:

Alone Again Or (from 2003)
Little Red Book (from American Bandstand circa 1966)
Your Mind and We Belong Together (promo film from 1968)