Spike Lee’s Father and Composer Bill Lee, Dies at 94

Spike Lee’s Father and Composer Bill Lee, Dies at 94

Bill Lee, whose work spanned six decades, including the scoring for his son Spike Lee’s films, died at his home in Brooklyn on Wednesday. He was 94.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee)

A popular jazz bassist and composer who performed with Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Duke Ellington, Lee, and his acclaimed bass ensemble, were known for their mellow sounds that paid tribute to the true essence of the genre. His work made him a favorite among music stars, opening the door for him to appear on over 250 albums throughout his illustrious career.

He’d also go on to score the first four feature films for Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee.

Lee worked with his son on She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do The Right Thing, and on the poignant look at the trials and hardships of a Black jazz musician in 1990s Mo Betta Blues. According to The New York Times, Spike Lee drew on the experiences of his father and the men he worked with to scribe the cult classic. “Everything I know about jazz I got from my father,” he said in an interview. “I saw his integrity, how he was not going to play just any kind of music, no matter how much money he could make.” There were other homages to Lee in the filmmaker’s work, including the 1994 Crooklyn—written by daughter Joie Susannah Lee and son Cinqué Lee and produced by Spike Lee- a biographical look at the family’s life.

Bill and Spike Lee also shared a brotherhood as both men graduated from Morehouse College. However, they ceased collaborating in the early 1990s following a dispute over personal matters. Though it’s unclear whether the two fully repaired their relationship, Spike Lee confirmed the passing of his father in a series of heartfelt Instagram posts paying honor to his legacy.