As one of the most iconic figures in 20th century pop and underground music, Lee Hazlewood was a major influence on musicians of all genres. The reclusive songwriter and producer was behind a slew of hits by Duane Eddy, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in the 1950s and 1960s. His most successful was the song by Ms. Sinatra that because her No. 1 smash “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.
That song has since been used in scores of movies, television shows and commercials, and performed or recorded by hundreds of artists.
Lee Hazlewood has taken his Final Taxi this week at the age of 78. In a diverse career spanning five decades, the legendary singer became widely respected as the pioneer of ‘country-rock’, as well as a major contributor to the sound known as ‘Cowboy Psychedelia’ or ‘Saccharine Underground’. His distinctive baritone voice told tales of society misfits, wonderers and damsels on death row, set to catchy but unorthodox melodies produced using groundbreaking recording techniques.
Hazlewood was born in Mannford, Oklahoma, in 1929. He served in the Korean War and after found work as a D.J. in Arizona, where he met the guitarist Duane Eddy.
In 1955 Hazlewood wrote a rockabilly song for Sanford Clark called “The Fool,” his first hit as a songwriter.Meanwhile, as Mr. Eddy’s co-writer and producer, Mr. Hazlewood helped invent twang-rock and also helped develop country-rock; he released an album by Gram Parsons’s early group the International Submarine Band on his LHI label in 1968.
After an underappreciated solo album, “Trouble Is a Lonesome Town,” in 1963, Mr. Hazlewood, who had relocated to Los Angeles, found himself embraced by the Rat Pack. He produced two hits for the teenage trio “Dino, Desi & Billy’ and a chart-topper for Dino’s father Dean Martin. At Frank Sinatra’s request, he began working with his daughter Nancy. Hazlewood told her to sing in a lower register, giving her instant success with ‘So Long, Babe’ in 1966. In the same year, he wrote ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’, the song that established Sinatra as one of the hottest pop stars of the 1960s.
In 1970, at the peak of his career, Hazlewood made a shock move to Sweden, where he released almost two albums a year before retiring in 1978. But in 1993 he was persuaded to return to the US, where he was surprised to discover he had obtained cult status. His albums were reissued by popular underground bands, he toured again with Nancy, and in 1999 and 2002 he headlined The Royal Festival Hall in London. In 2006 – almost half a century after his debut record, Lee Hazlewood released his acclaimed final album, ‘Cake or Death.”