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R.I.P. Arthur Lee - thanks for all the Love

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Psychedelic rock legend Arthur Lee, founder of the classic '60s band Love, died late yesterday afternoon after battling lymphoblastic leukemia, his manager Mark Linn said yesterday in an email to friends and the press.

Arthur Lee died peacefully at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, a little after four in the afternoon Aug 3, 2006 with his wife Diane by his side. His death comes as a shock to me because Arthur had the uncanny ability to bounce back from everything, and leukemia was no exception. He was confident that he would be back on stage by the fall. When I visited with him recently, he was visibly moved by the stories and pictures from the NYC benefit concert. He was truly grateful for the outpouring of love from friends and fans all over the world since news of his illness became public. We watched the DVD of the great House of Blues concert from '03, and he told me how much he appreciated [backing band] Baby Lemonade's dedication to his music.

Arthur always lived in the moment, and said what he thought when he thought it. I'll miss his phone calls, and his long voice messages, but most of all I'll miss Arthur playing Arthur's music.

Memphis was where Lee was born in 1945, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a young boy and it was here that he discovered his talent. At 18-years-old Lee recorded his first song with Johnny Echols (who would later be his guitarist in Love), a track called "The Ninth Wave". Soon after he wrote "My Diary" for Rosa Brooks who had a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar, which most consider Hendrix's first recording. The guitar legend later joined Lee on another track a few years later, "The Everlasting First" in 1970.
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But it was the mid '60s that Lee created several influential albums with Love, most notably 1967's "Forever Changes", which some regard as the best LP of the decade. The group was originally named The Grass Roots, and was the first rock act signed to Elektra Records. In the early '70s his old pal Hendrix even kicked around the idea of the pair joining up with Steve Winwood as a quasi-supergroup. But Lee was known for not wanting to tour very far outside of LA and therefore turning down some mighty important festivals like 1967's Monterrey Pop and a couple of years later a little gig in a farm in Woodstock, NY.

Never mistaken as the most-friendly of men, Lee had his run-ins with the law, the worst being his last one where he was arrested and jailed for threatening a neighbor while brandishing a gun. Because of the "Three Strikes" law here in California, Lee was sent to prison for 12 years for illegal possession of a firearm. He spent almost five years in the clink and was released near the end of 2001.

Before and after prison Lee joined forces with Baby Lemonade, a Santa Monica indie rock group of twentysomethings who had been spending their days working at Moby Disc on Wilshire. Together they they toured the world as "Love with Arthur Lee", sometimes performing "Forever Changes" in it's entirety.

Earlier this year when Lee became dangerously ill, two benefit concerts were arranged for his medical bills. The show in NYC featured a full sets by Robert Plant and Ryan Adams while the show at the Whisky here in LA featured several of his old bandmates including Baby Lemonade.

A pioneer and true rock legend, Lee was loved by musicians perhaps more than lay fans, most notably Syd Barrett who said that Love was one of the strongest influences in early Pink Floyd. Look no further than Love's second LP "Da Capo" and the track "Revelation" which was the first rock song to take up an entire side of an album.

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"Da Capo" also includes Love's biggest hit "7&7 Is" which some regard as the first punk tune, as well as "She Comes in Colors" which was clearly an inspiration for the Rolling Stones hit "She's A Rainbow".

A year later Lee would encourage Elektra repeatedly to sign The Doors, which the label eventually did, to much success. So much so that Lee often complained at the special attention that Jim Morrisson's band got from the label instead of Love.

Arthur Lee continued to influence musicians even in the '90s, when he released "Five String Serenade" for the French label New Rose Records. Shortly afterwards the title track was covered by the dreamy Mazzy Star whose album subsequently went platinum.

A pioneer even in his dying days, Arthurly, as he often called himself, was the first adult in Tennessee to receive stem cell treatment to help rebuild his immune system.

He was 61.

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"7 & 7 Is" Arthur Lee with Baby Lemonade in London

"Little Red Book" on American Bandstand