Arthur Lee, songwriter, musician, and frontman for the ever-evolving band Love (on WOW Report editor’s top-10 list), died Thursday of leukemia in his hometown of Memphis. He was 61. Lee was the first black rock star in the post-Beatles era and, though his band had only one top-40 hit (“7 and 7 Is”) and their best-loved album Forever Changes didn’t rise above 154 on the Billboard chart, they reached bona fide cult status early on with a list of firsts – the first interracial band, the first rock group released on the Elektra label – and led the way for the more popular mixed-race bands Jimi Hendrix Experience, War, and Sly and the Family Stone, whose sound they also inspired. And surprisingly, without Arthur Lee the Doors may never have seen a recording contract. In 1995, when Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Robert Plant thanked Arthur Lee and Love for their influence.
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