Bill Lee, Spike Lee’s Father and Jazz Bassist, Dies at 94

Bill Lee, jazz bassist who played with Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington, dies at Brooklyn home

Bill Lee, Spike Lee’s Father and Jazz Bassist, Dies at 94
Bill Lee, Spike Lee’s Father and Jazz Bassist, Dies at 94

Bill Lee is no more to play bass.

Bill Lee, a jazz bassist who performed with Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington before writing music for his son Spike Lee, passed away on Wednesday morning at his Brooklyn home. The cause of death is yet unknown. He was 94.

On Spike Lee's official Instagram, where he uploaded a number of pictures of his late father taken by David Charles Lee, the news was officially announced. He also posted the album art for Bill Lee's 1989 film "Do The Right Thing" score as well as his obituary from The New York Times.

Bill Lee leaves behind his wife, three kids and a daughter, a brother, and two grandchildren in addition to Spike Lee.

Bill Lee: A little about his life and work

The soundtracks for his son's first three full-length films were also written by the late Lee: “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “School Daze” (1988), and “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990). He also scored an early Spike Lee short, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads,” the first student film to premiere at Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films Festival, in 1983.

Bill Lee was a well-known jazz bassist in Atlanta and Chicago before his son's career took off, making the Lee family famous for some of Hollywood's most popular movies.

His bass notes can be heard on Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" along with those of Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel, Harry Belafonte, and others after he relocated to New York in 1959. He collaborated as a songwriter with Max Roach on a number of the drummer's records.

“Everything I know about jazz I got from my father,” Spike Lee stated to 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.”