Bill Lee, Jazz Musician & Father of Director Spike Lee, Dies at 94


The elder Lee scored his son’s early films, including 1989’s Do the Right Thing.

Spike Lee and his dad Bill Lee attend the 20th anniversary screening of “Do The Right Thing” at Directors Guild of America Theater on June 29, 2009 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Bill Lee — a well-regarded jazz musician who accompanied such artists as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Harry Belafonte as well as scoring four of his son Spike Lee’s early films, including the hit Do the Right Thing and two songs for Jungle Fever — has died. He was 94.



Bill Lee

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Lee died Wednesday (May 24) at his home in Brooklyn, said Theo Dumont, a publicist for Spike Lee. The younger Lee posted several photos of his father on his Instagram page announcing the death.

Lee was a session bassist who has played on albums by Odetta, Woody Guthrie, Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, John Lee Hooker and Peter, Paul and Mary, among many others. He can be heard on Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and Lightfoot’s “Oh, Linda.” He played on Aretha Franklin’s Columbia album debut in 1960 Aretha.

Lee wrote the soundtracks to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. Bill Lee also appeared in Do the Right Thing.

Bill Lee and Spike Lee were estranged after a falling out in the 1990s that the father attributed to his remarriage to Susan Kaplan.

In addition to Kaplan and Spike Lee, the elder Lee is survived by his sons, David, Cinque and Arnold; a daughter Joie; a brother, A. Clifton Lee; and two grandchildren.

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