Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lee Hazlewood Passes On

Singer and songwriter Lee Hazlewood died on August 4 from kidney cancer. He is perhaps best known for penning the song "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'."

Hazlewood was born July 9, 1929 in Mannford, Oklahoma. He was drawn to music early, although he studied medicine at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. During the Korean War he served in the Army. Upon his release from the military Hazlewood worked as a disc jockey. As a DJ Hazlewood befriended future rock guitarist Duane Eddy. It was in 1953 that Hazlewood registered his first copyrighted song, "For Bell Love Alarm." By 1955 Hazlewood would produce his first record for the duo of Jimmy and Duane (pianist Jimmy Dell and guitarist Duane Eddy). By 1956 Hazlewood would have his first hit, "The Fool," recorded by Sanford Clark. Hazlewood would produced Duane Eddy at the height of his career (from around 1958 to 1962). In 1963 Hazlewood launched his solo career as a singer, with the album Trouble is a Lonesome Town.

It would be in 1966 that Hazlewood would have the hit for which he has become best known. That song was "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." It was recorded by Nancy Sinatra and became not only her first hit, but arguably her biggest hit. It has since been recorded by such diverse artists as The Residents, Lydia Lunch, Primal Scream, Megadeth, Jewel, and The Fixx. Besides "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," Hazlewood also wrote the songs "Rebel Rouser (with Duane Eddy)," "40 Miles of Bad Road (with Duane Eddy)," "Somethin' Stupid (recorded by Frank and Nancy Sinatra)," and "Houston" (recorded by Dean Martin). He has been credited with contributing to the genre known as "Saccharine Underground" or "Cowboy Psychedelia," a genre that blended elements of rock and country. Hazlewood continued recording until recently, his last album Cake or Death being released last year.

I can't say that I was a huge fan of Lee Hazlewood's solo work, but I cannot deny that he had an influence on me through the work he did with other artists. Like everyone else since 1966, I have heard the many versions of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'." And I have always been a fan of Duane Eddy. There can be no doubt that Hazlewood had talent. And he influenced a large range of artists, from Vanilla Fudge to Sonic Youth to Nick Cave. It cannot be denied that he had an impact on music in late 20th century America.


Bobby D. said...

rebel rouser-- I have that in my itunes library.
did he work with Nancy on "Sugartown" too?
that was an odd little song-- very cute.

"Boots" is a great song for karoke if a hot half drunk girl performs it. You don't want to see a large angry older woman onstage for that one. Boots should be a classic at all Karoke bars.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Yes, he wrote "Sugar Town" as well!