Arthur Porter Taylor, 7 March 1945, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, d. 3 August 2006, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. The son of white trumpeter Chester Taylor (he took his stepfather Clinton Lees surname in 1952), Lees musical career began in Los Angeles with Arthur Lee And The LAGs. This instrumental group - Lee (organ), Johnny Echols (guitar), Alan Talbot (saxophone), Roland Davis (drums) - was inspired by Booker T. And The MGs as demonstrated by their lone single, The Ninth Wave (1963). Lee also pursued a career as a songwriter, composing two surfing songs, White Caps and Ski Surfin Sanctuary, and My Diary, a local R&B hit for singer Rosa Lee Brooks which featured Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Lee then began an association with producer Bob Keenes group of labels, writing Ive Been Trying for protégé Little Ray and performing Luci Baines with a new group, the American Four. Lee also composed Everybody Jerk and Slow Jerk for a thriving bar-band, Ronnie And The Pomona Casuals. Both songs appeared on the units lone album for the Donna label and featured Lee on lead vocals.
The all-pervasive success of the Byrds inspired Lee to form a folk rock band, initially dubbed the Grass Roots, but later known as Love. He led this erratically brilliant group throughout its tempestuous history, but temporarily abandoned the name in 1972 for his solo album, Vindicator. This energized set featured support from Band-Aid, which included Frank Fayad (bass), Don Poncher (drums) and guitarists Craig Tarwarter (ex-Daily Flash) and Charles Karp. The collection polarized opinion; some bemoaned its unsubtle approach, while others praised its exciting aggression. Lee then joined Paul A. Rothchilds Buffalo label, but a completed album was shelved when the company folded (the tracks were finally reissued, alongside Lees pre-Love material, in 1997). Lee subsequently resurrected Love to record the wretched Reel To Real. The singer resumed his solo career in 1977 with a four-track EP, which included the haunting I Do Wonder. These tracks later formed the basis of a second album, Arthur Lee, but its newer material showed a sad lack of direction.
The singer undertook another comeback in 1992 with Arthur Lee And Love, issued on the independent French outlet, New Rose. It included the captivating Five String Serenade, later covered by Mazzy Star, but the overall set was again marred by baffling inconsistency. An attendant promotional tour provided flashes of Lees former genius, particularly his appearance at the Creation Records labels 10th anniversary concert. In 1994, he formed yet another incarnation of Love, releasing Girl On Fire/Midnight Sun on the independent Distortion label. Two years later Lee was imprisoned with an eight-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm. He was eventually released in December 2001 and toured in 2002/2003 with an orchestra performing Loves classic third album Forever Changes to outstanding reviews.
For too long an enigmatic figure with a small cult following, Lee had come full circle, at last wallowing in the adulation he so long deserved. It was tragic when, after rumours of erratic behavior and alleged ill health, it was confirmed that Lee had been diagnosed with cancer. He died in August 2006. Tributes poured in from all over the world for Lee and his masterpiece, Forever Changes.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.