Lee Hazlewood is one of North America’s most enigmatic and mysterious songwriters. Record collectors and fans continue to celebrate his cult status and his recent reissues of classic albums have been gobbled up by the faithful.
In 1999 he launched a comeback that would last until his death in 2007 and a new book launched today captures the artist brilliantly. Lee, Myself & I – offers an intimate portrait by his manager, Wyndham Wallace, who became Hazlewood’s confidante and even collaborator.
Wallace tells the story of what it’s like “to meet your hero, befriend him, and watch him die”. Before he became a writer for Uncut, Classic Pop, and The Quietus, he worked as an independent music publicist and then ran City Slang Records’ UK office for eight years. He moved to Berlin in 2004, where he set up another short-lived label, and at the same time continued managing Lee Hazlewood up to the release of his final album, Cake Or Death. World Treasures Music spoke to Wyndham Wallace about the book:
WTM – Why did you decide to do the book?
Oddly enough, it never really felt like I decided to write a book. It was such a gradual process that it was underway before I realised what it was. Some of it was actually written – in a somewhat different form – while Lee was still alive, purely because these experiences seemed to me to be very precious and I wanted not only to record them but also share them with friends. After all, I felt that I’d had a very rare opportunity to get to know Lee – one that few people had – and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste it. But then I was encouraged to write a book by another publisher who’d read features I’d done for The Quietus – and where I have often written from a personal perspective – and that lit the fire. I’d been trying to write various books ever since I moved to Berlin in 2004, and I realised this was what I needed to focus on.
WTM – How do you feel about how the book has turned out?
Because I was under no pressure to write it to a deadline, I was able to spend a lot of time considering my approach and refining it. I’m therefore pretty happy with how it’s turned out: I like to think that it’s unimportant whether or not one knows much about Lee, and that the driving narrative force is actually about the developing relationship between a naive young man lost in the music industry and an extraordinary man whom he reveres and who goes on to become a dear friend. I hope that this will in turn allow others to discover Lee’s music, and see how it reflects his personality.
WTM – What sort of legacy does Lee Hazlewood’s music leave?
I remember talking to one of Lee’s granddaughters during his memorial party, and telling her how lucky she was. When most of us lose an important figure in our life, we’re left with little more than our memories of the person. She had countless records to remind her of what an amazing talent he was, recordings that captured his personality as well as his unique songwriting, production and singing skills. I think Lee’s music also acts as a reminder that success shouldn’t always be judged on the immediate response it provokes: as Lee himself said, sometimes it takes you thirty years to be discovered. It’s a wonderful thought that even now there are people who don’t know who he is, and who have heard his duets with Nancy at most. If they discover his records now, they’re inevitably going to be seduced by what they hear, because his music is so timeless, so idiosyncratic, and so multi-layered.
Lee, Myself & I is Wyndham Wallace’s first book. For more information, visit www.wyndhamwallace.com