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Composer and Father of Spike Lee Was 94 – The Hollywood Reporter

May 26, 2023

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’s early films, including the hit Do the Right Thing and two songs for Jungle Fever, has died. He was 94.

Lee died Wednesday 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. Terence Blanchard took over the role starting with Jungle Fever.

Spike Lee and Bill Lee attend the 20th anniversary screening of ‘Do The Right Thing’ on June 29, 2009, in New York City.

George Napolitano/FilmMagic

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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