Alvin Lee of Ten Years After died today from complications after a recent surgery. He was 68. “With great sadness we have to announced that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure,” reads a message on his website.
Lee was born in Nottingham, England and played with the Jaybirds in the early Sixties. He helped form a new band in the mid-Sixties, and in 1966, the group took on the Ten Years After moniker. The band played the Newport Jazz Festival in 1969, which was the first time the event had featured rock artists. They played the inaugural Woodstock festival that year, and left a lasting impression as Lee led the band in “I’m Going Home.”
Woodstock brought the band to a wider audience, spurring hits such as 1970’s “Love Like a Man” and 1971’s “I’d Love to Change the World,” but it also set in motion the group’s eventual unraveling.
“We’d play the old Fillmore and be able to just play,” Lee told Rolling Stone in February 1975. “We had respectful audiences then who would appreciate a jam or a swing. But after Woodstock, the audience got very noisy and only wanted to hear things like ‘I’m Going Home.’ I’ve always been much more of a guitar picker but I began to feel forced into a position of being the epitome of a rock & roll guitarist. Originally TYA wanted to make it without having to compromise to pop. It worked for a while but after five or six years the fun went out of it for me, a lot of the music went out of it.”
Lee left the band in 1973 to focus on his solo career. That year, he and Mylon Le Fevre released On the Road to Freedom, which featured collaborations with the Beatles‘ George Harrison, Steve Winwood, the Rolling Stones‘ Ronnie Wood and Fleetwood Mac‘s Mick Fleetwood.
Lee continued to release albums throughout his life. His latest, Still on the Road to Freedom, came out last year. No funeral plans have been announced.