Bill Lee, Beloved Jazz Musician And Spike Lee’s Father, Has Died At Age 94

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Bill Lee, the celebrated jazz musician and father of Spike Lee, died on May 24 at the age of 94. Spike confirmed the news, saying he passed away at his Brooklyn home.

Bill composed the iconic songs featured in Spike’s early films, including She’s Gotta Have It (1986), School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989) and Mo’ Better Blues (1990). However, the father-duo stopped working together in the early 1990s because they were unable to resolve disagreements involving money and other problems, The New York Times reported.

Spike posted a series of tributes to his father on Instagram, including one post showing an image of the vinyl album cover from Bill’s score for Do The Right Thing.

Bill, who was inspired by legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker when he was in his early 20s, sharpened his skills when he performed with jazz groups in Atlanta and Chicago. He then moved to New York City in 1959 and continued to rise in the music industry.

The famed musician worked with some of the greatest artists of the time, including Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte. Bill also played bass on Bob Dylan’s song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in 1965, according to Pitchfork. The beloved jazz musician secured another one of his memorable roles in 1960 when he played on the late Aretha Franklin’s Columbia album debut, reported the Associated Press.

Bill carried his passion for music throughout his life. In 2013, The New York Times reported that Bill was getting noise complaints from his neighbors because of his loud rehearsals. “This is a professional house with professional musicians living here,” his wife Susan said in response to the complaints at the time. “If it bothers you, maybe this is not the place for you.”

Bill was living in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as Fort Greene, which is home to many Black musicians. Fort Greene was also the setting for She’s Gotta Have It.

Bill is survived by his children Spike, David, Cinque, Arnold and Joie, as well as his brother A. Clifton Lee and two grandchildren.