Fast forward ten years, and it’s much harder for me to have levity about death with regards to music. Elvis may have died a ridiculous death, but it is sad that he’s dead. And it’s not really funny for me to think about how Frank Zappa is dead. I missed out on seeing him play, and that eats at me.
Another band, no, person, who was in the back of my mind to see was Arthur Lee. You can read a little bit about him and his band Love in this LA Times obit.
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, Tenn., hospital. He was 61.
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.
But Love also became one of the first burnout bands of the 1960s, and with Lee’s death, only three members survive of the eight who were in the band between 1965 and 1967.
As you probably know, I’m a big fan of Stew/The Negro Problem. In one of the live recordings I have, I can’t remember if it’s from KCRW or from one of the Blackboot series of recordings, Stew sings “Now go see Arthur Lee!”
Based on that line, I looked a little bit into the story of the band. Kind of amazing, given that before that I really had no idea who they were. It’s not like their stuff is particularly radio-friendly, given its eccentricities. And even though I love me my K-EARTH 101 oldies station, Love is not a band one hears there often. So I picked up two Love records about two years ago, and was kind of stunned. Not all of it was great, but damned if “Alone Again Or” is not an amazing spectacle of a song. I mean, it’s a folk rock song featuring Mariachis for goodness’ sake! Kicks ass.
So yesterday morning on my drive (driving, no bus yesterday) I heard the announcer saying they’d play it in tribute. I think it’s a radio station our of Ventura, the Octopus I think. Let’s look that up. Yup. “The Octopus 95.9.” Aside: I quite like that station. I heard Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia followed by Steely Dan’s Any Major Dude Will Tell You one after another some time back. Anyone who knows me, well, and now, I’m telling you, that that’s a happy moment for me, and produces shock in my heart.
This artist who I never saw died, and it evoked more emotion than I anticipated.
Rest in peace, Arthur Lee.