Songwriter, producer, performer, and outsider genius Lee Hazlewood died on Saturday at the age of 78. He had been battling renal cancer for over a year.
Although his echoing late-‘50s production work for Duane Eddy and others attracted the attention of Phil Spector (and became a major influence on Spector's Wall of Sound production style), Lee was probably most famous for writing Nancy Sinatra’s "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." Legendarily, he instructed Sinatra to sing the song “like a 16-year-old girl who fucks truck drivers.” Given these circumstances, the song inevitably became an international megahit, and Hazlewood went on to write and produce much of Sinatra’s hugely successful '60s output, including their incredible 1968 duet album, Nancy and Lee. Ever the visionary, he also signed Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band to his own LHI label in 1967.
Additionally, and no less notably, Hazlewood continued to furrow his singularly idiosyncratic solo career. His nicotine-stained baritone will undoubtedly remain one of the most perfect instruments of the pop canon, although his echoing, dark, and droll brand of countrified pop was not marked for any kind of commercial success. Indeed, most of his albums remained out-of-print and largely forgotten for years until Steve Shelley’s Smells Like imprint re-released many of them, to great success, in the late-‘90s. Notable highlights included gems such as Cowboy In Sweden (released after he had moved to Sweden in 1970), Poet, Fool or Bum, and his 1999 comeback album Farmisht, Flatulence, Origami, ARF!!! & Me. His self-proclaimed final album was last year’s Cake or Death.
Hazlewood is survived by his third wife, Jeanne, and three children.