Forever Changes

“Humans are one big spirit separated into different bodies wandering around a hunk of mud called Earth, and all beings are basically reflections of each other. That’s what my songs are about.”

Arthur Lee said that.

Arthur Lee was a musical genius and according to the thesis-like text by Andrew Hultkrans, a prophet.

“Forever Changes”, about Arthur Lee and Love’s 1967 album, the second book written for Continuum’s 33 1/3 collection is an odd one.

 I read the reader criticism on Amazon before I bought it. Most of it was very good. One review included this:

“This product reads like something someone wrote as a literary disertation for some type of graduate work in music studies.”

This could never be a disertation in music studies but could very well have been written by a serious student of American Studies.

I wasn’t put off by the criticism. I thought to myself “I would love to read a disertation on Forever Changes.”

Hultkrans brings in many interesting references — Marat/Sade and Nathaniel West’s “The Day of the Locust.” He quotes Soren Kierkegaard and Joris-Karl Huysmans but we also get a good picture of Arthur Lee’s experience in LA then and an epilogue that contextualizes his triumphant post-incarceration, turn-of-the-new-century tours of England and elsewhere. Lee often played the entire album with band (Baby Lemonade) and an orchestra. He was greated by appreciative, adoring audiences everywhere her traveled.

I saw the band LOVE in 1968. I didn’t know them then. I was lucky enough to see a reincarnation of Arthur Lee and Love in 1980. I had a friend in a band who often played LA clubs and he knew about the show. The show was upstairs over a bowling alley. Every second of the performance was riveting.

Arthur Lee was not a wastrel. He was very serious about his work and his work was very serious. In the history of 20th Century music this sound is on the top of my list of the best ever and geez, there is a lot of competition. America produced alot of groundbreaking sounds over the course of roughly a hundred years.

I admire and respect Arthur Lee to the very depth of my bone marrow. He came to serve. He was a bodhisattva.

from the book:

“And why is this 58-year-old crazed genius not back in LA eatin’ chicken like a mother fucker and rollin in his caddy (an earlier quote from Arthur about what he could have done after he got our of jail) — ordinary, noble pursuits he is more than entitled to indulge until his dying day? Because, as he claims God came to him back in 1995, before he was sentenced to prison (my note-for allegedly shooting a gun into the air during an argument with a neighbor), and said, enunciating as Arthur does very clearly: ‘Love on Earth must be.’ Apparently, this directive was reiterated several times during Arthur’s imprisonment. Back in the 60s Arthur’s songs came to him in dreams, and he knew then as he knows now that when you get the call you pick up the phone — red or otherwise. And if the call says go out and tell the people, well, then, you go out and tell the people — but quick.

Arthur Lee says of his song ‘Nothing’: ‘This song to means life is short. It’s sort of like Ecclesiastes inthe Bible — meaningless . . .I’ve studied the Bible a lot. I know a man’s words are as deep as the water (my note-Arthur was a Pisces). Even though our lives are so short, we’ve got time to get involved . . .We shall perish, you know? The thing about me . . . the souls goes on . . . I’m doing what I’m doing because I have a lot more work and I chose to do it.” 

There are points at which I wished there was more Arthur and less intellectual speculation in Hultkrans piece BUT Arthur Lee was a brilliant thoughtful, spiritually-motivated man. He was simultaneously inside and outside his time. He was no fool. He was hugely talented. Arthur carried the burden of insight and his intent, he said, was to sing us subversive nursery rhymes that he knew would stick in our heads and maybe change our lives.

For all the accolades and attention that he received in the decade prior to his death from leukemia in 2006.

If you have not heard LOVE go buy Forever Changes, the album, and play it. If it doesn’t catch you on the first listen, spin it five more times. I guarantee it will come out to you in all its glory. Feel Arthur’s heartfelt, artistic intent and give thanks for his having been through this life with us in mind.


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