August 3, 2006: Love’s Arthur Lee Dies

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Forever_Changes_Arthur Lee_and_the_Book_of_ Love_psychedelic_rocknroll_John_EinarsonThe leader of the Los Angeles band Love can rightly be considered one of classic rock music’s stars who should have been, admired by such other artists as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young, to name but a few. A native of Memphis, Tenn., who grew up in Los Angeles, Arthur Lee played in a number of bands and wrote songs recorded by other artists before Love emerged onto the mid-1960s Sunset Strip scene that also yielded such legendary acts as The Doors, Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. Love’s sound was a diverse mix of folk-rock, psychedelia, proto-punk and more.

The group featured both Lee and Bryan MacLean as singers and songwriters and guitarist Johnny Echols, and was the first rock band signed to the folk label Elektra Records. Its 1966 self-titled debut album included its single of Burt Bacharach’s “Little Red Book” that remains a cult favorite but was not liked by the song’s writer. The second Love album, De Capo, contained the band’s highest-charting single, “7 and 7 Is” (which reached #33), a precursor of the punk movement a decade later. The group’s third release in 1967, Forever Changes, was a commercial flop on release but has come to be considered a visionary masterpiece of late 1960s rock.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Love’s “brilliant” Forever Changes

Lee led a variety of versions of Love following the dissolution of its primary original line-up after Forever Changes and also recorded and performed under his own name. He did a five-and-a-half year stint in prison after being convicted on a weapons charge in 1996. Lee enjoyed a bit of a career revival when he toured after his release from jail in a new version of Love that included Echols. He suffered from acute myeloid leukemia for a number of years before he succumbed to the disease in his hometown of Memphis.

Related: Love is on our list of crucial Rock Hall omissions

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