Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lee Hazlewood

Lee Hazelwood, who had been battling renal cancer for some time, passed away last Saturday, at the age of 78 . I posted a piece about him last January, and I am reposting it below, along with an mp3 of the song, "Summer Wine."

In today's (January 28) New York Times Arts and Leisure section, there is an interesting and entertaining interview with Lee Hazlewood, the songwriter and performer best known for writing many of Nancy Sinatra's hits, including "These Boots Are Made For Walking," "Some Velvet Morning" and "Summer Wine." Hazlewood, who recently released a new album called Cake or Death, has incurable renal cancer.
Hazlewood has been a hero of mine since I was a kid, because "Summer Wine" was the first song I had ever heard where the references to sex were so blatant and explicit that even I recognized them for what they were: blatant and explicit references to sex. (Lee: "She saw my silver spurs and said let's pass the time/And I will give to you some summer wine." Nancy: "Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time/And I will give to you more summer wine.")
In the early 90's, young musicians began to realize that Hazlewood was more than just a kitschy artifact of the pop '60's. (He had been recording and releasing idiosyncratic albums in his adopted homeland, Sweden, throughout the last three decades, but very little of that material got heard in America.) Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth got a record company to release several of his albums in America. A bunch of artists recorded Hazlewood's songs on a tribute album called Total Lee!
Hazlewood's songs have held up incredibly well, because, even though the songs were supreme examples of '60's pop, there was always something weirdly off-the-wall going on. Like Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood is now generally recognized as an overlooked artist who was way ahead of his time. It is unfortunate that it is only now, as he wrestles with cancer, that he is getting the kind of recognition he deserves.

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood - Summer Wine

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