Newly released from jail, '60s psychedelic visionary Arthur Lee aims to reclaim his mantle

During the nearly six years Arthur Lee, founder of the ’60s cult band Love, languished in prison on a gun- possession conviction, his spiritual children kept his flame burning. Washington, D.C.’s the Make Up released a single called ”Free Arthur Lee” in ’97; a Boston band christened itself the Red Telephone, after a Love song; last year, Rhino Records reissued Love’s watershed ’67 album, Forever Changes. And in an oblique homage, the White Stripes titled an album De Stijl ”because Love called their second album Da Capo,” says Stripes main man Jack White.

For his part, Lee — who was released from the medium-security Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, Calif., on Dec. 12 and is living in L.A. — has never heard of any of the above groups. ”[But] if they’re not against me, I guess they are for me,” Lee, 56, writes in a fax responding to a series of questions from EW.

How did a child of flower power cope with life in the big house? ”I tried to keep my cool, although at times that was quite impossible,” Lee responds. He wrote no songs behind bars but plans to ”step right back into what I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted, and that was touring with my band [L.A. pop trio Baby Lemonade] and recording more Love songs.”

Lee also reports that he has written his autobiography, which he hopes will be published next year. Ironically, MOJO Books has just released Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or, a bio by British rock scribe Barney Hoskyns. ”If he can get his head and his life together, I daresay he could revive his career,” says Hoskyns. ”I’d like to see him collaborate with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized or with Super Furry Animals.”

Not surprisingly, Lee has yet to read Hoskyns’ book. ”I would like to know how it feels to write a book about someone you don’t know at all,” he writes (apparently having forgotten that Hoskyns interviewed him in the early ’90s). ”Did he spell my name right?” Well, for the record, the book’s dedication page reads ”For Arthurly.”