Bill Lee, Father of Spike Lee and ‘Do The Right Thing’ Composer, Dead at 94


Bill Lee, the father of Spike Lee who scored many of his son’s early films, has died. He was 94. 

The filmmaker confirmed the news in an Instagram post, sharing a link to his father’s obituary in The New York Times. According to The Times, Lee died on Wednesday morning at his home in Brooklyn, New York. 

A notable musician in his own right, Lee composed the soundtracks for his son’s films, including 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It, 1988’s School Daze, 1989’s Do The Right Thing and 1990’s Mo’ Better Blues. The father-son duo eventually experienced a falling out in the early 1990s and parted ways professionally. 

In honoring his father on Wednesday, the director shared a series of beautiful black-and-white portraits along with the caption, “DEEDS NOT WORDS.” He also posted an image of the Do The Right Thing vinyl album cover art, and a photo of Lee with Bob Dylan. 

“My Father, BILL LEE Played Bass On BOB DYLAN’S Classic Song IT’S ALL OVER NOW,BABYBLUE On His Album BRINGING IT ALL HOME,” he wrote. “This Morning May 24th My Father Made His Transition. Today Is Also The Birthdate Of BOB DYLAN. Today Is Also The Birthdate Of Jackson Lewis Lee Who Is The Son Of Tonya Lewis Lee And Me,Brother Of Satchel Lee,And The Grandson Of Daddy.Also Must Give Love To Our Sista TINA TURNER Who Left Us Today On This May 24th,2023. WHEW LAWD. What A Day. Da Lee Family Appreciations All Da💜💜💜,Your Heartfelt Condolences. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾”

According to his obituary, Lee —  born William James Edwards Lee — also wrote folk-jazz operas, led an acclaimed ensemble of bassists and was an accomplished musician appearing in thousands of live shows and on more than 250 record albums. He worked with Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Belafonte, Ian & Sylvia, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary, among others.

“Everything I know about jazz I got from my father,” Spike Lee told The 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.”

Several stars have offered their condolences on Instagram, including Lenny Kravitz, Omar Epps, Nia Long, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more. 


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