Friday, August 04, 2006
Los Angeles (Reuters): Arthur Lee, the eccentric singer/guitarist with influential 1960s rock band Love, died in a Memphis hospital after a battle with leukemia, according to a Web posting by his manager. He was 61. ''I am very sad to report that Arthur Lee died this afternoon in the hospital with his wife, Diane, by his side,'' Mark Linn said on a Love fan Web site. ''This is still very much a shock for me as I had hoped Arthur would recover.'' The news was also relayed by Love's MySpace page. A telephone call to Linn was not immediately returned. An official at the Methodist University Hospital in Memphis declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality.
Lee, a Memphis native who referred to himself as ''the first so-called black hippie,'' formed Love in Los Angeles in 1965, emerging from the same scene as groups like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors and the Mamas and Papas. The first multiracial rock band of the psychedelic era, Love recorded three groundbreaking albums fusing traditional folk rock and blues with symphonic suites and early punk. Bands as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Siouxsie and the Banshees cited Love as an influence.
The band's self-titled debut yielded the hit single ''My Little Red Book,'' written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The 1967 follow-up, ''Da Capo,'' was one of the first rock albums to feature a song, ''Revelation,'' that took up an entire side. A third release, 1968's ''Forever Changes,'' which boasted adventurous horn and string arrangements, is considered Love's bold response to the Beatles' ''Sgt. Pepper's'' album. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at No. 40 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. But Love, which rarely left Los Angeles, lost momentum as Lee hired new musicians and pursued a solo career. Various reunions amounted to little, and Lee's eccentricities landed him in a California prison for six years during the 1990s for firing a pistol into the air. After being released in late 2001, Lee assembled a new version of Love and toured Europe and North America, often playing ''Forever Changes'' in its entirety.
Earlier this year, Lee was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. In May, facing certain death after three rounds of chemotherapy failed, he became the first adult in Tennessee to undergo a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from an umbilical cord, according to The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. Doctors said the procedure lifted his chances of survival only moderately, the newspaper said. Several benefit concerts were held in Britain and the United States to help Lee with his medical bills. Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant headlined a benefit in New York in June.