Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Lee: the wilderness years

Felt like posting some rare Arthur Lee footage, and found these two performances from 1990, well after the dying days of the original run of Love lineups, but still before his highly suspicious arrest and jail term, and his subsequent glorious 21st century revival, sudden decline and exit from this plane. This was a time when Arthur was ignored, taken for granted and thought of as a has-been, knocking around L.A. clubs with various pickup bands. His astounding voice, wryly witty lyrics, and total commitment to self-expression never faltered, even in these dark days.

One of his greatest solo songs: "Everybody's gotta live/and everybody's gonna die!" If rock and roll is an art form that finds the most stunning and illuminating ways to speak the most obvious truths, this song is one of the best examples.

This song is new to me. "Somebody's Watching You": not the Sly Stone song, but equally paranoid. Hard-living African-American hippie geniuses do have to keep looking over their shoulders, after all.

I'm not really certain what Lee's spiritual beliefs were, but the final punchline, "God is watching you" does not sound the least bit comforting here, which is part of what makes this song is so appealing, I think. A very complex guy, Arthur Lee. We miss him.

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