Spike Lee’s father Bill Lee dies at 94

Bill Lee composed the score to his son’s classic movie ‘Do the Right Thing’
Spike Lee's father Bill Lee dies at 94
Bill Lee, the father of Spike Lee (Image source: YouTube/Celebrity News US)

Bill Lee, the father of Spike Lee and a musician who composed the soundtrack to his son’s earliest classic films, has died. He was 94.

Spike Lee confirmed his father’s transition on his Instagram page on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

William James Edwards Lee was born on July 23, 1928, in Snow Hill, Alabama, about 55 miles southwest of Montgomery. He developed a love for music early in life as his father and mother played instruments. Later, he taught himself several instruments and moved to Atlanta to begin his career. He then moved to Chicago before finally pitching his tent in Fort Greene in Brooklyn, New York, in 1959. 

As a session musician, Lee worked with the créme de la créme of the industry, including legendary singer Bob Dylan and on the debut album of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

Therefore, after his eldest son Spike Lee began his illustrious movie career, it only made sense for his father Bill Lee to compose the score for his son’s earliest classics such as She’s Gotta Have It, Mo Better Blues and especially Do the Right Thing. The father also contributed two songs on Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever.

Spike Lee also posted the original vinyl album cover from the 1989 seminal film where Bill Lee performed in the role of composer and conductor for the score and also played a small part in this and other movies.

As for Spike Lee’s reverence for jazz, which was played out in the movie Mo’ Better Blues starring Denzel Washington, he credits his late father for introducing him to the genre. 

“Everything I know about jazz I got from my father,” Spike Lee told The New York Times in 1990. “I saw his integrity, how he was not going to play just any kind of music, no matter how much money he could make.”

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