August 19, 2007
Lee Hazlewood, July 9, 1929 – August 4, 2007
By Kathy G.
One person whose passing didn’t get nearly the attention he deserved was singer/songwriter/producer Lee Hazlewood (perhaps because, due to the similarity in their names, people have perennially confused him with this jackass). In the grand scheme of things, Hazlewood wasn’t as important as the other folks I mentioned. But his musical vision was unique and compelling, and his best work still has the power to surprise and delight.
How to describe the music of Lee Hazlewood? I came up with this rough formulation:
Lee Hazlewood = Johnny Cash + LSD + Phil Spector – The Crazy
To explain: Johnny Cash references the fact that Hazlewood’s roots were in country music, and he never traveled too far afield from there. LSD because, by the late 60s, a psychedelic turn was quite pronounced. Phil Spector for the poppy girl-group influence and his lush, complex orchestrations. But minus The Crazy, because although Hazlewood was certainly an eccentric, unlike Spector he wasn’t known for, um, imprisoning his wives or pulling guns on people.
I’m going to post some YouTube videos of some of his most interesting work. Hazlewood was best known for his work with Nancy Sinatra, so I’ll start with their biggie. This is from Sinatra’s wonderful 1967 television special, Movin’ with Nancy, of which more later. But for now, just check this out. It’s totally outrageous.
Seriously, this one must have launched a million fetish fantasies.
Hazlewood was mostly known for being the man-behind-the-scenes Svengali for Duane Eddy in the 50s and Nancy Sinatra in the 60s. But although he didn’t look or sound like anyone’s idea of a pop star – he had a big droopy moustache and a somewhat goofy baritone voice – by the late 60s he started to come out front and center and do some of his own singing. He recorded a number of duets with Sinatra, of which “Some Velvet Morning” is the most memorable – an exceedingly strange yet haunting and eerily beautiful song with some absolutely gorgeous, magisterial orchestration. Check out it below (the clip here is also from the television special):
Here’s another Lee and Nancy duet, “Summer Wine”:
And another one below, “Jackson.” Unfortunately it’s audio-only, but it’s such a great song and I love what they do with it. I think it’s even better than the Johnny Cash/June Carter version, and that’s saying a lot, because I worship Johnny Cash. Lee and Nancy did a number of excellent covers of country hits – I'm especially fond of their version of Dolly Parton’s great “Down from Dover.”
Now, about that Nancy Sinatra television special, Movin’ with Nancy. Unfortunately Netflix doesn’t seem to have it but it is available from Amazon, and I highly recommend it. If ever a television show screamed “pure 60s,” this is the one. Watching it is like being inside a frenzied, pop-psychedelic dayglo dream. Not only does it have the high-concept, music video-like segments with Nancy and Lee, but there are several delirious production numbers in which Nancy is accompanied by small army of mini-skirted dancers in go-go boots. Plus, there’s a duet between Nancy and her dad that goes beyond Freudian. I think Nancy also duets with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. – though maybe I just dreamed that.
One of the bonuses of Movin’ with Nancy is that it includes the original commercials, which are fascinating. Here’s one of the groovy ads from the sponsor, RC Cola – “It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad cola!”:
Not a good weekend for 56K modems here.
Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 19, 2007 12:56:47 PM
Ah, the iconic - err fetishistic moment. That Nancy's Walking Boots video will live forever. This blog is probably the last place in the blogosphere I'd have expected this Sunday AM treat. It's all good.
Did I mention that the times have changed?
Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 19, 2007 1:06:02 PM
Fantastic, thank you for this trip down memory lane
Posted by: Ex Patriot | Aug 19, 2007 1:30:42 PM
Posted by: site | Aug 19, 2007 3:01:34 PM
What is a cola when it's 'MAD'?
Posted by: Mohjho | Aug 19, 2007 4:29:13 PM
Nice tribute. Nancy & Lee were both under appreciated until recently.
"Boots" wasn't in the '67 special, but Art Linkletter peddling RC Cola was. It's a real period piece from a summer of escalation.
Posted by: DAB | Aug 19, 2007 8:16:27 PM
To mirror my recent comment on another of your posts: yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
For the record, I rank the artists in question here as:
Lee Hazlewood kicked ass, and that's all there is to it.
Recquiescat etc etc etc.
Posted by: wcw | Aug 19, 2007 9:02:49 PM
You seem far to young to know and embrace this 60's pop.
Posted by: Sachem | Aug 20, 2007 3:33:06 PM
It's just amazing what used to pass for dancing.
Posted by: Bloix | Aug 20, 2007 7:06:53 PM
Sachem: you seem far too young to know and embrace art of any stripe. Stick with sand castles and fingerpainting.
Please go away now.
Posted by: wcw | Aug 20, 2007 9:32:27 PM
This is a sad post. Lee really wasn't all that. Velvet morning won't find its way to my Roku, etc.
Unique and compelling really is overstatement.
Posted by: Don N | Aug 20, 2007 11:44:25 PM
I too posted about Lee, and my friend Nicole at C&L used it for their LNMC.
I'm just saying...
Posted by: SteveAudio | Aug 22, 2007 2:26:36 PM
I kind of prefer the Slowdive cover of "some velvet morning", but i didn't know that it was a cover untill today. hmmm.
Posted by: Indy | Aug 22, 2007 2:27:01 PM
Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 7:38:58 AM
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