Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bill Lee, Respected Jazz Bassist and Composer for Spike Lee, Dies at 94

Renowned jazz bassist Bill Lee, known for his collaborations with artists like Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington and for composing scores for his son Spike Lee's films before their artistic collaboration faltered, passed away at his Brooklyn home on Wednesday (May 24) at the age of 94.Spike Lee confirmed the news on Instagram, sharing poignant portraits of his late father along with a link to The New York Times obituary. Bill's musical genius graced several of Spike's films, including "She's Gotta Have It" (1986) and "Do the Right Thing" (1989).

Bill began his career as a session musician in Atlanta and Chicago before moving to New York in 1959. His bass can be heard on Bob Dylan's haunting ballad "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," and he collaborated with Max Roach as a composer on multiple albums.

In the 1990s, a rift formed between Spike and Bill due to unresolved financial and family disputes. However, they found moments of reconciliation at special events commemorating their shared cinematic achievements, such as the 20th-anniversary screening of "Do the Right Thing" in 2009 and a 25th-anniversary gathering in 2014.

Bill's musical contributions extended beyond his collaboration with his son, leaving an indelible mark on the realms of jazz and cinema. He lent his extraordinary talents to over 250 record albums, working with icons like Aretha Franklin, Simon and Garfunkel and Harry Belafonte.

Surviving Bill Lee are his wife, three sons, a daughter, a brother and two grandchildren. Despite their differences, Spike Lee acknowledged his father's profound influence, stating, "Everything I know about jazz I got from my father. I saw his integrity, how he was not going to play just any kind of music, no matter how much money he could make."

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