Arthur Lee (musician)

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Arthur Lee
Lee in 1977
Lee in 1977
Background information
Birth nameArthur Porter Taylor
Born(1945-03-07)March 7, 1945
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedAugust 3, 2006(2006-08-03) (aged 61)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, drums, keyboards
Years active1963–2006
Associated actsLove

Arthur Taylor Lee (born Arthur Porter Taylor; March 7, 1945 – August 3, 2006) was an American singer-songwriter who rose to fame as the leader of the Los Angeles rock band Love. Lee was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 7, 1945 in John Gaston Hospital, to Agnes (née Porter), a school teacher, and Chester Taylor, a local jazz musician and cornet player.[1] Love's 1967 album Forever Changes was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and it is part of the National Recording Registry.

Early years[edit]

As an only child, Lee was known by the nickname "Po", short for Porter, and was looked after by additional family members so his mother could proceed with her teaching career.[2] With his father being his first connection with a musician, Lee was fascinated by music at a young age.[3] He would sing and hum along to blues musicians such as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters on the radio.[3] At the age of four, Lee made his debut on the stage at a Baptist church, reciting a small poem about a red telephone.[4]

In the early 1950s, his parents separated as his father "refused or neglected to provide for her", the divorce petition states.[5] Lee only remembered seeing his father three times during his entire life.[5] Subsequently, Lee and his mother packed their things and took a train to California, while his father was at work.[5] Lee and his mother resided in Los Angeles permanently in 1952.[6] In 1953, their divorce was granted and his mother married Clinton Lee, a successful construction worker, on April 23, 1955.[6] Lee was formally adopted by Clinton Lee on June 6, 1960, legally acquiring his surname, after filing for an adoption notice in 1958.[6] His mother was able to resume her teaching career, enabling the family to buy a new home in the West Adams area of South Central Los Angeles.[7] The neighborhood was also home to Johnny Echols, who attended the same schools as Lee and would later be the lead guitarist for Love.[8]

Lee attended Sixth Avenue Elementary School and excelled in athletics but was behind academically.[9] Being known as "the toughest kid in the neighborhood", Lee was pressured into succeeding in school by his great aunt, a former school principal, but showed interest in sports, music, reading, and animals.[9] Lee later attended Mount Vernon Junior High, where his interest in music would soon outweigh his focus on sports.[10]

Lee's first musical instrument was the accordion, which he took lessons in from a teacher.[11] He adapted to reading music and developed a good ear and natural musical intelligence. While he was never formally taught about musical theory and composition, he was able to mimic musicians from records and compose his own songs.[12] Eventually, he persuaded his parents to buy him an organ and harmonica.[12] Graduating from Susan Miller Dorsey High School, Lee’s musical ambitions found opportunities between his local community and classmates.[13] As opposed to attending a college under a sports scholarship, he strived for a musical career.[14] His plan of forming a band was under the influence of Echols, after seeing him perform "Johnny B. Goode" with a five-piece band at a school assembly.[14]


Forever Changes sold moderately in its time (reaching #154 on the Top 200 albums, and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks, without the benefit of a hit single), although it reached the top 30 in the UK. Nonetheless, its cult status grew. In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Forever Changes 40th in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[15]

The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. It was entered into the National Recording Registry in May 2012.[16]


In late 1996, Lee was sentenced to 12 years for the negligent discharge of a firearm. California's three strikes law meant Lee was forced to serve a prison term, having previously served two years in jail for arson, and having been charged with various drug, driving and assault offences.[17]

Lee denied that he had fired the gun, and visiting fan Doug Thomas who had denied involvement when the police responded later confessed to the deed. Lee was incompetently represented in court; a year-delayed analysis of a gunpowder residue test on him produced a negative result. Had he pleaded guilty, Lee would have been sentenced to nine months in jail but he fought the case and lost. With the charges enhanced on account of his prior felony conviction and coincidental accusations of domestic violence of the same time-frame, the court made an example of him: 12 years, 85 percent of time served: about 9 years.

In prison Lee refused visitors and interviews. "I thought I would beat this case, so why would I want to broadcast it? This has been so humiliating to me."[18]

Former bandmates Bryan MacLean and Ken Forssi both died while Lee was incarcerated, ending any speculation as to a full-fledged Love reunion.

On December 12, 2001, Lee was released from prison, having served 5½ years of his original sentence. A federal appeals court in California reversed the charge of negligent discharge of a firearm, as it found that the prosecutor at Lee's trial was guilty of misconduct.[19]

Final years[edit]

In April 2006 it was publicly announced that Lee was being treated for acute myeloid leukemia. A tribute fund was set up shortly after the announcement, with a series of benefit concerts to be performed to help pay medical bills. The most notable of these concerts was produced by Steve Weitzman of SW Productions at New York's Beacon Theater on June 23, 2006, and featured Robert Plant, Ian Hunter, Ryan Adams, Nils Lofgren, Yo La Tengo, Garland Jeffreys, Johnny Echols (Love's original lead guitarist), and Flashy Python & The Body Snatchers (featuring Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). Backed by Ian Hunter's band, Plant performed 12 songs, including four Led Zeppelin songs and five recorded by Love in the 60s ("7 and 7 Is", "A House Is Not A Motel", "Bummer in the Summer", "Old Man", and "Hey Joe").[20] A benefit concert was held in Dublin, Ireland.[21]


Lee underwent several months of treatment for leukemia, including chemotherapy and an experimental stem cell transplant using stem cells from an umbilical cord blood donor.[22] His condition continued to worsen, and he died from complications of the disease in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 61.[23]


Robyn Hitchcock's 1993 song "The Wreck of the Arthur Lee" from the Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians album Respect was written as a tribute to the singer.[24]

Arthur Lee is mentioned in the song "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken", by Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, as well as in the song "Mate of the Bloke", by Half Man Half Biscuit. His prison term is the subject of "The Prison's Going Down" by ex-Stranglers singer and guitarist Hugh Cornwell. Lee is the subject of the song "Byrds Turn to Stone" (originally titled "Mr Lee") by Liverpool band (and former Arthur Lee backing group) Shack.[citation needed]

Rival Schools and Quicksand frontman Walter Schreifels paid tribute to Arthur Lee on his 2010 solo album An Open Letter to the Scene with a track titled "Arthur Lee's Lullaby".[citation needed]

The 2009 Communion album by the Swedish band The Soundtrack of Our Lives features a song entitled "The Fan Who Wasn't There" which was based on a conversation singer Ebbot Lundberg had with Lee.[25]

Directors Mike Kerry and Chris Hall Heavenly Films managed to persuade Arthur Lee to cooperate in the making of a UK documentary film Love Story 109 mins 2006, successfully recording the last interviews with a reflective Arthur Lee, before he was diagnosed with leukemia. The film shows interviews with key individuals from some of the line-ups of Love and Elektra management and studio engineers.[26]

Rapper Mac Miller covered Lee's 1972 song "Everybody's Gotta Live" on his posthumous sixth studio album Circles (2020), on the song "Everybody."[27]

"Everybody's Gotta Live" was featured in the 2019 film Jojo Rabbit, and is also on the soundtrack.



  1. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 29.
  2. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 31.
  3. ^ a b Einarson 2010, p. 32.
  4. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 33.
  5. ^ a b c Einarson 2010, p. 34.
  6. ^ a b c Einarson 2010, p. 35.
  7. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 36.
  8. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 40.
  9. ^ a b Einarson 2010, p. 37.
  10. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 42.
  11. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 43.
  12. ^ a b Einarson 2010, p. 44.
  13. ^ Einarson 2010, p. 45.
  14. ^ a b Einarson 2010, p. 46.
  15. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. ISSN 0035-791X.
  16. ^ "Love, Dead in National Recording Registry". Retrieved May 23, 2012.
  17. ^ Lester, Paul (May 21, 2002). "Hard Times". The Guardian. p. 31.
  18. ^ Scribner, Sara (March 25, 1999). "Love hurts". Dallas Observer.
  19. ^ Greenwald, Matthew (December 12, 2001). "Love's Arthur Lee to be Free". Rolling Stone.
  20. ^ "Arthur Lee (1945–2006)". Archived from the original on February 6, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  21. ^ "Other Arthur Benefit Concerts Throughout The Daily Planet-Dublin". May 16, 2006. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  22. ^ Boehm, Mike (August 5, 2006). "Arthur Lee, 61; Forceful Leader of Influential '60s Band Love". Los Angeles Times.
  23. ^ Sisario, Ben (August 5, 2006). "Arthur Lee, 61, a Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Is Dead". The New York Times. p. C10.
  24. ^ "See post-song banter". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  25. ^ "The Soundtrack of Our Lives: All Time Is One Time". L.A. Record. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  26. ^ ‘Love Story’ 2006 Documentary Heavenly Films dirs Mike Kerry & Chris Hall 109 mins UK
  27. ^ "Who is Arthur Lee, the hippy icon Mac Miller covers on 'Circles'? | NME". NME Music News, Reviews, Videos, Galleries, Tickets and Blogs | NME.COM. January 20, 2020. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  28. ^ a b Hoskyns 2003, p. 143.
  29. ^ a b Hoskyns 2003, p. 144.


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