Bill Lee, a prolific jazz musician, and composer and the father of renowned film director Spike Lee, has passed away at the age of 94.
According to reports, Lee passed away at his home in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday (May 24). The news was confirmed by the director in a series of posts through his Instagram account, which chronicled the elder Lee at various points in his life, in photos taken by his brother David Lee. Another tribute post featured an image of the cover of the vinyl version of the soundtrack from Spike’s highly acclaimed film, Do The Right Thing.
Bill Lee wrote the soundtrack for that film along with She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze and Mo’ Betta Blues. He also composed the score for the short film, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, which debuted in 1983 at a special film festival at Lincoln Center. The musician also made brief appearances in each of those films with Do The Right Thing being the only exception.
Bill Lee was born in Snow Hill, Alabama into a family of educators and musicians who encouraged his interest in the drums, piano and flute as he attended segregated public schools and went on to study at Morehouse college in Atlanta. Building from that and inspired by Charlie Parker, he became proficient with the double bass and migrated to New York City in 1959. It was there that he became a fixture on the scene, playing on Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and on Aretha Franklin’s Columbia Records debut in 1960 in addition to playing with Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte.
Bill Lee and Spike Lee would have a falling out after Mo’ Betta Blues over disagreements concerning money and other family matters. But the elder Lee’s integrity and commitment to the purity of vision always was a guiding principle to the director. Mr. Lee was also a fixture in his Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, with many attesting to music streaming from the place into the late evenings.
In addition to Spike, Bill Lee is survived by his wife, Susan Kaplan; his sons David, Cinque, and Arnold; his daughter, Joie; a brother, A. Clifton Lee; and two grandchildren.
See how Twitter is saluting Bill Lee’s life below. May he rest in peace.
Bill Lee, Notable Jazz Artist & Spike Lee’s Father, Dies At 94 was originally published on cassiuslife.com
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