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Apr 24, 2010, 7:49 PM
Canadian-born jazz historian Gene Lees, lyricist for the 1977 Sanrio Films theatrical cartoon feature The Mouse And His Child, died Thursday at his Ojai, California home. He was 82.
Jazz historian and lyricist Gene Lees dead at 82
An Ojai resident for over three decades, he had struggled with heart disease for many years, family friend Leslie A. Westbrook said. He was an author and singer as well.
Working with composer Roger Kellaway, Lees wrote the lyrics for the songs "Scat Rat," "Much in Little" and "Tell Me My Name," heard on the soundtrack of The Mouse and His Child.
Born Frederick Eugene John Lees in Hamilton, Ontario on February 8, 1928, Lees was the author of 15 books of jazz history and analysis, including The Modern Rhyming Dictionary: How to Write Lyrics, a standard reference work. He wrote biographies of Woody Herman, Oscar Peterson, and Lerner and Loewe, and collaborated with Henry Mancini on Mancini's autobiography.
Songs with his lyrics were recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Carmen McRae and Tony Bennett. A three-time winner of the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award and a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Journalists Association, Lees wrote and published Jazzletter.
His career as a lyricist began after he studied composition with the Berklee College of Music by correspondence. Lees wrote English-language lyrics for several bossa nova songs, including Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," "Someone to Light Up My Life," "Song of the Jet," "This Happy Madness" and "Dreamer."
As well, he also wrote lyrics for Charles Aznavour's "Paris Is at Her Best in May" and "Venice Blue", and contributed lyrics to "Bridges," by Milton Nascimento; "Yesterday I Heard the Rain," by Armando Manzanero; and Bill Evans's "Waltz for Debby."
He attended Ontario College of Art in Toronto. From 1948 to 1955, he was a freelance journalist, working for the Hamilton Spectator, the Toronto Telegram and the Montreal Star. He also wrote for American magazines Stereo Review and High Fidelity.
He was a music critic and editor for the Louisville (Kentucky) Times by the mid-1950s, but left in 1959 to edit Downbeat until 1961. He gave several explanations for leaving the Chicago jazz magazine, including his refusal to stop putting black musicians on the cover.
He wrote liner notes for almost 100 artists, including Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Quincy Jones.
He produced three compilations of his jazz newsletter. Lees also wrote two novels: And Sleep Until Noon (1967) and Song Lake Summer (2008).
Other books by Lees told of the effect of racism on the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson and Nat King Cole. In collaboration with photographer John Reeves, he produced Jazz Lives: 100 Portraits in Jazz.
In 2003, his own memoirs, Friends Along the Way: A Journey Through Jazz, were released.
Lees translated poems written by Pope John Paul II when the future pontiff was still a priest. These were recorded by Sarah Vaughan in 1985 as the song cycle One World, One Peace.
He spent most of his adult life in the United States, but returned to Canada for a few years in the early 1970s.
He was president of Toronto-based Kanata Records from 1971 to 1974.
In 1971, Lees had his own late-night show on CBC Television. He was a commentator and singer on other CBC stations, hosting a jazz show for Toronto's CKFM-FM as well.
He recorded the LP Bridges: Gene Lees Sings the Gene Lees Song Book while in Canada. In 1998, he released a second album, Gene Lees Sings Gene Lees; a third, Yesterday I Heard The Rain, was recorded with a group of jazz all-stars led by Don Thompson.
Gene Lees' wife of 39 years, the former Janet Suttle, plans to continue publishing his Jazzletter. Other survivors include a son from a previous marriage, Phillippe; a sister, Victoria Lees; and a brother, David.
Services will be private.
[Via The Globe and Mail -- http://www.theglobeandmail.com/...e1545566/?cmpid=rss1, Los Angeles Times -- http://www.latimes.com/...0110.story?track=rss]
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Apr 24, 2010, 7:50 PM)