raig Lee (1956-1991)

a friend of Craig's from college surfaces... with a song (2004)
Craig's poem/obituary to Jim Van Tyne
Craig's Obituary by Brendon Mullen, Stuart Timmons and Geza X (1991)
Craig's letter and farewell message
some of Craig's band buttons and press photos

received March 9, 2004

From: Bob Harvey
To: Craig Lee— wherever he may be — and to his memory

Unfortunately I waited until Craig was gone to see if I could find him on the net. His legacy and his memory were easy to find, but I waited too long to tell him how I enjoyed the times we had playing, singing, writitng and recording together in the early 70's.

I met Craig in the Student Union lounge at Cal Arts. I was taking a course in "Concrete Poetry" and one day after class, I stopped by the lounge. A curly haired young man was playing guitar and singing "Bridge Over Troubled waters". I was drawn to Craig immediately. When he finished singing, I engaged him in conversation and told him a bit of my background, which included a Blue Grass Band, a San Francisco rock band and an LA folk band called "The Holy Mackerel." We began having regular jam sessions at my store front digs at 1010 Temple St. in LA. We wrote 8 or 9 songs together and appeared at hoot night at places like the "Golden Bear" , the Pasadena "Ice House" and "Ledbetter's." In 1974 I went back to school and got a degree in journalism. I quit music and went to work for Mother Trucker News in San Bernardino, where I was doing music reviews. In 1982 the magazine folded and I went to work for Great American Truck Racing in Atlanta, GA.

I retired in 1998 and dove back into music, writing, making demos and trying to sell my songs.

Last week I found a tape of Craig and I at Cal Arts in 1972. On it I found a recording of a song that Craig and I were working on. I pulled it out and began working on it. The name of the song is "Icy Finger Tips".

It is a great tune and I began looking for Craig to tell him about doing the demo of that song after all these years.

I didn't have the end of "Icy Finger Tips". The end of the tape broke off and crumbled. Then last night I just kept singing the verse and Chorus over and over and finally it came back even after 38 years. So here is the complete lyrlics to the song and when i go into the studio next week I plan on making a demo of it.

By Bob Harvey & Craig Lee

Am/Though you are C/gone, you linger D/on
B7/A fantasy - inE/side of me
Am/Your smile is C/still, my wish is D/done
I'm B7/left to hold what E/cannot be

Chorus Em/You hold my spirit in you're A/icy fingertips
Em/You hug me to your world -
till F/my composure slips
Then my G/cover pulls and rips
While your B7/starin' in my E/trips

Am/I'll live my C/life the way I D/choose
B7/I'll love all things - the way that E/I've loved you
Am/your image C/fades your race is D/through
Your B7/memory's now - all I have E/left of you

Chorus Em/You hold my spirit in you're A/icy fingertips
Em/You hug me to your world -
till F/my composure slips
Then my G/cover pulls and rips
While your B7/starin' in my E/trips

Take Care
Bob Harvey

Craig's Obituary/poem for Jim Van Tyne
published in the LA Weekly sometime in the Spring of 1991


"I Could Use a Little Rain"


Got a call the other day

This time Jim is gone

I spoke to him two weeks ago

Didn't know anything was wrong

Don't say life is an evergreen

What's gone doesn't grow again

Another day, another friend

When does this drought end

I could use a little rain

-Craig Lee

Craig Lee (1956-1991)

reprinted from the LA Weekly, October 18, 1991
(located by Kateri Butler)

by Brendon Mullen, Stuart Timmons and Geza X

One of the most wonderful and sharpest thorns in the rose garden of underground culture, Craig Lee, died at home last week of AIDS-related illness. He was 37.

Writer, critic, producer and musician, Craig roamed the outer extremities of the local alternative scene. Most people will remember his influence on Los Angeles music during the early days of the punk-rock movement. He was the controversial music editor of this paper for two years during a crucial period of its evolution and was a regular contributor to its pages for a decade.

Craig was also a music reviewer for the L.A. Times and a frequent contributor to L.A. Style, The Advocate and various fanzines. Though he was a rock critic he also enjoyed reviewing films, plays, demonstrations and exotic locales. Recently he had begun writing fiction. Three of his stories will be published in gay men's anthologies.

Craig was sometimes controversial because his extreme views were taken for snobbery. His unshakably opinionated views were impish, catty, incendiary. But Craig's most sincere concern was the advocacy of hometown talent and the promotion of Los Angeles as a rising star. Craig initiated and produced the LA Weekly Rock Music Awards, based upon a reader generated poll for selecting and awarding the best L.A.-based musicians. He co-authored the book Hardcore California: A History of Punk and New Wave.

Craig also produced Rock Against AIDS, the first benefit in which local rock musicians donated their services for an AIDS organization. Also, in 1987 he produced "Music for Life" which took AIDS education to Latino communities around MacArthur Park.

He was a Hollywood Kid whose office bore a movie still of his actress/mother aiming a ray gun. Born in Ventura County, Craig was educated at Interlochen Academy in Michigan and later at CalArts. But his real education was in the world of punk bands and dark movies that was the L.A. punk scene. The environment was one of an outrageous pre-viral party of innocent sex and drugs and rock & roll on a scale that makes today's Strip rockers look like they're on a Sunday school picnic showing their little tatoos and piercings to everyone in the park. In a milieu of dark clothes, dark humor, dark music and parking lot parties-- amid the sometimes poetic, often more crude and stupid shock of punk-- Craig was a familiar sight, his expression one of bemused furrowed puzzlement, like a punk cartoon of Charlie Brown.

Alice Bag and Craig Lee (left)

Lotus Lame and The Lame Flames (below)

As the glaring guitarist in Catholic Discipline, he was one of Penelope Spheeris' pet weirdos in "The Decline of Western Civilization." Other bands he played and wrote for included The Boneheads, The Bags, Funhouse, Soave Bolla, and, most recently, Alarma. Craig was also the Svengali behind "Lotus Lame and The Lame Flames," a bizarre bondage/bikini-clad group fronted by a moonlighting bank manager. Craig wrote all the tunes in their show, a smash on the pre-Club Fuck! underground party circuit.

For five years Craig lived with a Thai man, Pravit Ouisunanaroj ("Pat"), who nursed him through the end. The pair traveled together frequently. Craig studied gamelan music and tutored English to Buddhist monks who officiated at his funeral.

For many months Craig was afraid to disclose or discuss his disease. This reticence was aggravated by the insidious illness he had, PML (progressive multifocal leuko-encephalitis), a relentless brain infection which renders slow irreversible paralysis.

As a figure in a field of macho creativity like rock & roll, Craig was subject to a steady stream of corrosive harassment. He was called a fag on stage and in print. His tires were slashed. AIDS rumors flew long before he was sick-- and after. In fact, when Craig applied for his last job as a music publicist, his boss was told not to hire him because he had AIDS. She did anyway.

A few months ago Craig wrote an obituary for his friend Jim VanTyne ( above ), the entrepreneur of the Anti-Club and other underground venues who also died of AIDS related illness. "I Could Use A Little Rain," the most powerful song Lee's new band, Alarma, recorded, was inspired-- or perhaps jarred loose-- by Van Tyne's death. "I'm overwhelmed by the anger and pain," Craig wrote. "When will this drought ever end?"

The few friends who tended him and helped him on this unjust exit remain in a state of disbelief that his voice is stilled. We grimly prepare for others to be stolen from our lives. Let it rain.




One can only imagine the inside scoop
these two (Craig shown with Pleasant Gehman)
must have been drooling about in preparation
for the next LaDeeDa column in the LA Weekly...


photo: Terry Dorn




...to thank those who played and attended his benefit last month (at Hollywood's Palace),
Craig Lee left an unfinished letter.
The following is an excerpt:

I've just finished watching seven hours of videotape from my benefit concert. It looks like a show from my dreams. It's too bad this dream had to come from a nightmare, but the nightmare will stop as soon as people stop this disease.

I have never wanted to hide from the truth, even when it's less than pleasant. I had big problems letting people know I had AIDS. I was scared of how some people would react when I turned positive five years ago. I didn't mean to be a coward, but I've let the A-word become as much of a stigma for me as for most people and we need to break that stigma down. It's only a stigma if you let it be one. Obviously the many people who helped me out that night were not afraid to get close to the demon. If we're going to fight this thing, we have to be truthful about what it is and who the real enemies are.

Part of the reason I'm such a critical person is that I've always had a hard time accepting love and encouragement from others. Watching that video, I felt there was a lot of love on that stage and if that power could heal me, I'd be out of my bed dancing with Vaginal Creme Davis to Phranc's songs. I ,too, have a lust for life. But I am not afraid, and receiving that much concern will make what ever passes before me a lot easier.

Love means never having to say you're sorry, so I'm not going to apologize for whatever I've done. But I hope people can put together another show like this, not because someone's dying, but because they are happy to be alive and vital.

Treasure life. Don't abuse your bodies and souls. Don't do anything to stop it. And the next time you see some racy girl screaming her lungs out while playing three chords on an out-of-tune guitar, know that I'll be there in spirit cheering her on.

Thanks for all the beautiful noise.

some of Craig's band buttons and press photos
more remembrances in the West Wing...

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