Arthur Lee died on Thursday.
- Guardian article
- Guardian obituary
- Independent obituary
- Luckier in Love than later in life
- BBC news item
- Your tributes at the BBC
- Arthur Lee videos on YouTube
Needless to say it’s a very sad day here at beefheart.com.
It’s hard to grasp that the charismatic, vital and seemingly unstoppable performer that re-emerged five years ago on a determined mission to raise the profile of his great music has gone and there are no more shows. No more “Seven And Seven Is” encores, no more spine tingles caused by a solitary tambourine tap tap tapping the intro to “Little Red Book”, no further opportunity to hear live performances of the mind-bendingly agile “August”, possibly my favourite Love song.
Arthur’s music had always been there with me since my late teenage years, and certainly always will be. I dragged my partner Ness along to see his first Brighton gig five years ago and she fell for him completely, even buying a pair of “Love” pants with the Love flower-powery lettering on the front (I made do with the more traditional t-shirt). We’ve seen him several times since then; it’s always the best show in town and he invariably has the same effect on any friends we take along.
I particularly wanted Arthur to succeed in his mission to establish his rightful place in music history. Lauded by critics and regularly featuring in those top 100 albums charts, how many real people have actually heard of Arthur Lee and Love? He was no household name and that is inexplicable to me. A person who wrote music this good and sang with a voice positioned somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding should be up there with the Brian Wilsons and John Lennons of the world.
Anyone who accepts the cliche that only Forever Changes is worth bothering with has a wonderful surprise in store one day. “Love”, “Da Capo”, “Four Sail”, “Out Here”, “False Start”, “Vindicator” and “Black Beauty” all have their flaws but are wonders well worth beholding. Even “Reel To Real” and “Arthur Lee and Love”, the final albums recorded under the Love name which were so critically panned that they’ve been virtually written out of history, still have enough strong material for me to even forgive the presence of Satan’s own slap-bass on one tune.
Tragedy is a greatly over used word but the loss of Arthur Lee, a man whose performances suggested he was at his peak rather than merely revitalised with something to prove, truly is tragic in my opinion.
Tonight I can only don that pair of “Love” pants, raise a glass in honor of the Ricochet Man, as Don Van Vliet recently referred to him, and go “Oop ip ip, oop ip ip YEAH!”