Bill Lee was a bassist who played with musicians including Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin (1942–2018) and composed music for the movies of his son, Spike Lee.
Bill Lee’s legacy
Lee was a prolific session musician who played bass with some of the greats of the 1960s and ‘70s. His bass can be heard on Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” – the only instrument on the track other than Dylan’s own guitar. Lee played on the debut albums of Aretha Franklin, Gordon Lightfoot (1938–2023), and Simon and Garfunkel, as well as on records by John Lee Hooker (1917–2001), Judy Collins, and Peter, Paul & Mary.
Also known for his own music, Lee was a fixture of New York City’s live jazz scene, known for mixing poetry with his music. He founded the New York Bass Violin Choir, playing standup bass along with six other bassists, and he composed several operas.
When Spike Lee began making movies in the 1980s, Lee worked alongside his son to provide music for his early films. He composed music for “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Mo’ Better Blues.” He also served as music director on some films, as well as conducting the orchestra on some. Lee appeared in small roles in several of his son’s films.
Tributes to Bill Lee
Full obituary: The New York Times