Spike Lee's Father Bill Lee, 'Do the Right Thing' Composer, Dead at 94
Spike Lee is mourning the loss of his beloved father. The Do The Right Thing writer announced the passing of his father, Bill Lee, on May 24. Bill was 94 and worked as a musical composer on some of Spike's most iconic films. Bill died in Brooklyn, New York, a city that served as a backdrop for many of Spike's film projects. Spike's father showcased his own brilliance by composing the soundtracks for his son's films, including 1986's She's Gotta Have It, 1988's School Daze and 1990's Mo' Better Blues. After an unfortunate falling out, they parted ways professionally in the early 1990s. Bill attributed their rift to his remarriage to Susan Kaplan after his wife died in 1976. A 1994 cover story for The LA Times paints a different portrait.
While discussing Spike's seventh film Crooklyn set for release that year, Bill wanted to talk about everything but Spike. "I don't have anything to do with Spike now," he told the publication. Bill was arrested in 1991 for heroin possession. There was also the subsequent request to his Spike for financial support, which was refused, a year later. "We haven't talked for two years," Bill added. The film, which grew a cult following, was loosely based on the family's upbringing. The patriarch of the family had musical dreams that he chased as his wife provided for the family, which caused a strain. Delroy Lindo and Alfre Woodard co-led the project.
Despite their mishaps, the love remained the same between the father and son. Their relationship turned around for the better after Bill stopped using drugs. "I'm glad I was arrested. It woke me up. ... Dope was not part of my life until I was 40 years old," Bill later said, per The LA Times.
Spike honored Bill with a series of beautiful black-and-white portraits via an Instagram post with the caption, "DEEDS NOT WORDS." He also posted an image of the Do The Right Thing vinyl album cover art, and a photo of Bill with Bob Dylan.
Spike followed in his father's footsteps by attending Moorehouse College in Atlanta, a historically Black college. His father's imprint was clear throughout his life. "Everything I know about jazz I got from my father," the filmmaker told the New York Times in 1990. "I saw his integrity, how he was not going to play just any kind of music, no matter how much money he could make."