The Memphis-born Arthur Lee heard and played jazz, R&B and surf music before forming a psychedelic folk-rock band in 1965 called Love, and they became one of the most popular bands on the L.A. club scene and remain a cult favorite to this day. Love's music was not just folk-rock, as the music sounded flamenco, garage, pop, blues, hard rock and funk elements as well, and Lee himself collaborated with several singers and musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Billy Preston and Ornette Coleman and is considered a proto-punk figure.
He was born as Arthur Taylor, his early years were spent in Memphis and he barely saw his musician father. He took an early liking to the blues & poetry as a child (the roots of "The Red Telephone" go back to age four). His mother and he relocated to Los Angeles in the early '50s where Arthur grew up as a tough, athletic kid. Musically, he started on accordian before also learning harmonica and organ. His stepfather adopted him, and he legally became Arthur Lee at 15. He and future Love bandmate Johnny Echols grew up together.
Lee and Echols' first band was the Stax-inspired The LAG's, an instrumental combo in which Arthur played organ. He wrote some songs for other artists in the surf and R&B genres and was involved in a session with an unknown Hendrix in the early '60s. (The two would become friends and collaborate again in the future). His next band was a swingin' group called The American Four before starting a folk-rock group, which included not only Echols, but also future Mansonite/murderer Bobby Beausoleil. This band changed its name to Love in '65. They were one of the biggest bands on the L.A. scene in the mid-to-late '60s.
The group's third album, Forever Changes ('67, Elektra), ranks as an absolute classic with its Baroque-style approach to orchestral pop and some dark lyrics. Later albums featured different line-ups under Lee's direction and went in a harder rocking direction. Love helped The Doors get signed to Elektra but Love ended up off the label. The band had a difficult time touring, due to not only the limitations of traveling certain regions of racist USA in the '60s with a multiracial hippy outfit, but also due to the drug abuse within the band and the resulting problems.
Throughout the '70s Lee alternated between solo records and more material from Love, often with overlapping personnel and ideas. He did a stint in the clink on a gun possession charge in the '90s but resurfaced with a live band upon release. Lee toured in the new millennium playing Forever Changes in its entirety with live strings and horns, including many shows with original Love member and Lee's musical brother Johnny Echols. Lee died of leukemia in 2006.
Here's an interesting promo clip for "Your Mind And Me Belong Together". The transfer quality is rough but it's worth checking out for scenes of Arthur in his car, at his house, with his girlfriend, etc.
Some early Arthur here with The American Four:
And of course, if you are like me you are always looking for a reason to listen to Forever Changes yet again!: