Bill Lee, Jazz Bassist and Father of Spike Lee, Dead at 94
Bill Lee, the jazz bassist who recorded with the likes of Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin and was the father of filmmaker Spike Lee, has died at the age of 94.
Lee died Wednesday at his home in Brooklyn, Spike confirmed to The New York Times. No cause of death was provided.
A longtime session musician whose work dates back to the early Sixties, Lee’s double bass could be heard on recordings by artists like Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, Odetta, Duke Ellington, and hundreds more.
Among his most notable appearances are on Dylan’s 1965 classic “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” — where Lee is the lone musician accompanying Dylan’s guitar and harmonica — as well as Franklin’s 1961 debut, Aretha, and Simon and Garfunkel’s 1964 first LP, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.
Decades later, Lee would serve as a composer for films by an up-and-coming director — his son Spike — who enlisted him to create the scores for his early movies: Spike’s award-winning short Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, then the feature-lengths She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and Mo’ Better Blues, with the latter focusing on a jazz musician much like his own father.
“Everything I know about jazz I got from my father,” Spike Lee told The New York Times in 1990. “I saw his integrity, how he was not going to play just any kind of music, no matter how much money he could make.”
Lee also talked about his father’s influence when the director was recently honored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. “We grew up in an artistic household, and we were always encouraged to be in the arts,” Lee said during the gala. “Whereas many young people are asked, ‘How are you going to make money being a poet? A dancer? A singer? A filmmaker?’ We never got that hate from our parents.”