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Bill Lee — Spike’s Dad is a Jazz Legend in his Own Right

From The New York Times:

Bill Lee loves his stoop. When the weather gets warm, the 83-year-old musician sits on the steps of his Washington Park brownstone to watch the sun rise over Fort Greene Park and write melodies in his head.

Lee, a prolific composer and iconic bass player who has performed with Duke Ellington, Odetta, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and other greats, has lived in Fort Greene for 53 years. Here, he raised his six children and taught them to love what he loves: his neighborhood and his music.

His oldest son, the filmmaker Spike Lee, used his father’s music as the soundtracks to several of his early pictures. These days, it’s Bill Lee’s youngest son, Arnold, a 26-year old saxophone player, who joins his father on the stoop. “I like to sit out here,” said the elder Mr. Lee. “I don’t roam too far from what I can see.”

William James Edward Lee III was born in Snow Hill, Alabama, a town no bigger than a hiccup. Everyone in his family was musical. With his mother on the piano and his father playing the trumpet, he and his six brothers and sisters performed together as Arnold Lee and the Lee Family.

“Music was here before me,” said Mr. Lee, who played drums. “I just joined in.”

Bill Lee — A Jazz Great (And Father of Spike) from NYT The Local – Ft. Greene on Vimeo.

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