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Lee Michaels

An eclectic singer, songwriter, and performer, Lee Michaels made music that had the physical impact of hard rock, the creative ambition of psychedelia and progressive rock, and the passion and grit of rhythm & blues, the latter facet reinforced by Michaels' vocals, which could swing from sweet to soulfully gritty at a moment's notice. Michaels was also a gifted keyboard player, and often played full concerts at the organ with only a drummer to accompany him. (Michaels was also a sure hand at the piano and harpsichord.) One could argue that Michaels' wide-ranging sound was one of the reasons he didn't enjoy greater commercial success despite the loyalty of his audience, though Michaels did enjoy a Top Ten hit in 1971 with "Do You Know What I Mean."

Lee Eugene Michaels was born on November 24, 1945, in Los Angeles, California. By the mid-'60s, Michaels was already a fixture on the California music scene; he was playing keyboards with the Sentinels, a surf rock band with an R&B influence that also featured John Barbata (who later played with the Turtles), and he wrote a tune that appeared on the debut album of the sunshine pop band the Holy Mackerel (featuring songwriter and media personality Paul Williams). Michaels later moved on to play in the band the Strangers, led by future Canned Heat guitarist Joel Scott Hill. Michaels soon bowed out of the Strangers, and his tenure in the Family Tree, a San Francisco band featuring future power pop icon Bob Segarini, was also short-lived, though Michaels opted to stay in the Bay Area. In time, Michaels struck out as a solo artist, and he landed a record deal with A&M Records, which released his debut album, Carnival of Life, in 1968. The psychedelic-influenced effort produced only marginal sales, and Michaels returned with the tougher-sounding Recital before the year was out.

Musically, Michaels hit his stride with his self-titled third album, released in 1969, which paired him with drummer Barry "Frosty" Smith and featured "Heighty Hi," which became an FM radio staple, and Michaels' signature cover of "Stormy Monday." Frosty became Michaels' on-stage foil, and his super-amped organ setup and Frosty's drumming made for a power duo with enough muscle to share stages with the leading hard rock acts of the day. Michaels built his own studio in his home, and used the space to record 1970's Barrel, which featured him, Frosty, and guitarist Drake Levin in a set of funky and topical hard rock. For 1971's Fifth, Michaels recruited Joel Larson to play drums in Frosty's absence, and while the album wasn't one of his most ambitious, a white soul number with a solid groove, "Do You Know What I Mean," connected with radio programmers and gave Michaels the biggest hit of his career, rising to number six on the singles chart.

The success of Fifth and "Do You Know What I Mean" made Lee Michaels a genuine rock star, but his next album didn't connect with his new fans; 1972's Space & First Takes was dominated by a pair of semi-improvised extended jams (each in the neighborhood of 15 minutes) that found Michaels swapping his keyboards for a guitar. The album brought tensions between Michaels and A&M to a head, and by the end of 1972 Michaels gave the label Lee Michaels Live, a concert set recorded in New York that fulfilled his commitments to the label. Michaels promptly signed a new deal with Columbia Records, but neither 1973's Nice Day for Something or 1974's Tailface made much of an impression with fans or record buyers, and Michaels and Columbia soon parted ways. Within a few years Michaels went into semi-retirement, and while he released Absolute Lee in 1996 and My Life in 2008, for the most part Michaels stayed out of the public eye. After his music career faded out, Michaels opened a restaurant in Marina del Rey, California centered around a spicy shrimp dish he'd created; Killer Shrimp became a success, and the family-run business now boasts six locations in California and Nevada. In 2015, Manifesto Records released a box set, The Complete A&M Albums Collection, that brought together Michaels' first seven albums in one package; Manifesto also issued a single-disc sampler, Heighty Hi: The Best of Lee Michaels. ~ Mark Deming
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: "5th"

1. Keep The Circle Turning

2. You Are What You Do

3. Willie & The Hand Jive

4. Didn't Have To Happen

5. Rock Me Baby

6. Do You Know What I Mean

7. Ya Ya

8. Can I Get A Witness

9. Oak Fire

10. I Don't Want Her

x

Track List: Heighty Hi - The Best Of

1. Heighty Hi

2. Do You Know What I Mean

3. If I Lose You

4. The War

5. Goodbye Goodbye

6. Hello

7. Carnival Of Life

8. Uummmm My Lady

9. Keep The Circle Turning

10. Thumbs

11. Can I Get A Witness

12. Hold On To Freedom

13. Murder In My Heart (For The Judge)

14. Sounding The Sleeping

15. Stormy Monday

16. What Now America

17. Who Could Want More

18. No Part Of It

19. Own Special Way

20. Love

x

Track List: The Lee Michaels Collection

1. Hello

2. Carnival Of Life

3. Sounding The Sleeping

4. If I Lose You

5. The War

6. Grocery Soldier

7. Goodbye, Goodbye

8. Heighty Hi

9. Stormy Monday

10. Mad Dog

11. Murder In My Heart (For The Judge)

12. Thumbs

13. Uummmm My Lady

14. Do You Know What I Mean

15. Keep The Circle Turning

16. Rock Me Baby

17. Can I Get A Witness

18. Hold On To Freedom

Comments

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Illegal immigrants don't know what freedom means.
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mysteriousst r a n g e r s 8 6
❤❤❤❤❤
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Love to see him live! ME Live.com Cabot Cinema Beverly, Ma..
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Best version of Stormy Monday ever!!!
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w.e.ferdinan d
Ummmm she's my lady is a masterpiece for any man that loves a woman
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chadwickrh
I was turned on to Lee Michaels' music in my early teens and really loved it (still do). My favorite of his has always been Tell Me How Do You Feel. What an awesome piece of B-3 playing and percussion! Fantastic and full of soul.
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Do u know what i mean DAMN dis song gets me up to dance like now!!! :-D
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Worked with Lee between Frosty and Buddy Miles great 3 months. He was one of the Best B-3 Leslie players around soulful voice.
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I have all of Lee's albums & still play them on my turntable. Very influential to my music career. Thx for all of it brother. Just wish you would play again...
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1969- Saw him play with Taj Mahal at the Olympic Theater in LA. Great
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Lee Micheals! Tops for our Longhair class of 1970.
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I saw Lee Michaels at least half a dozen times in the late 60's. the last time was at starlight bowl in San Diego, had to be 1970-72. He opened that concert with an announcement that he had gone deaf (his words) then proceeded to sit down and played the whole concert using a piano, and Frosty on drums, not the same never heard from him again. Frosty was a really big guy, and he liked to let it be known that he played drums with his hands, not sticks, sticks, were for wimps.
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keithincapit o l a
I heard several times that one of his last gigs he had his amps cranked way up and ran off the stage in the middle of a song holding his ears. They said that he blew out bot ear drums. That was that last time people heard from him And then I heard that he came out with an album where he played just a guitar and didn't go over very well. Anyone else heard those stories and if there true? You know how rumors are half way true if you exclude 2/3 of the story.
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Lee Michaels played in San Berdoo, CA often in the late 60's-early 70's. He had a strong following and was known to put on a great show. That city was a backwater to some (and is a disaster zone now) but the Rolling Stones opened up their very first US Tour at the historic Swing Auditorium. I saw many legendary groups there during that period.
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You should get and every thing that Lee Michaels recorded .
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i remember lee playing in the village in nyc when a band of friends were going to the Fillmore east in the late 60s early 70s!! wow what fun!!!!
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We use to follow him where ever he played in SoCal, Loved him!!
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ccunnington1 5
a neighbor who was a few years older than me played me the Lee Michaels album.I bought it, still have it and even though Black Sabbath is my favorite band the first side of that album ( my Dad being a drummer) is still some of the best music I have ever heard. 55 now with 4 kids when the house is empty I go straight for that CD and crank it up!
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The sound of him and Frosty filled the auditorium like nothing else. Frosty performed the most amzing drum solo using only his hands.
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rmseagle
i would love hear something from him in the late '60's
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Great organists, the dude was funky.
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pefrmpa
loved him in the 70's and still love him
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Really miss him...
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fireheart
Lee! Com'on back my man and bring the rockinn' music back with you!
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patdafatcat
lee,wish you were on tour again
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Lee's the Man!
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rmeadows41
It was 1970 and I was in Viet Nam. I was introduced to Lee's music by some guys from California. When I got out of the service in 71, I saw him in concert in Iowa. No chairs. Everyone on the floor. Drugs abounding and passing along. Lee himself was so ripped, he would laugh and admit he forgot the words and the audience would sing them out! We all loved his music very much. His music was one example of what was right during those turbulent years.
All Hail Lee Michaels!!
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dbphoto123
I did hear him live and it was awesome! I've been a fan ever since.
Also like Dave Mason and saw him in concert. The 60 and 70's music is still some of the best!!
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Wow! What can I say about Lee Michaels - The first time I heard Lee was on his 1969 "Lee Michaels" album. I remember hearing his version of "Stormy Monday" - His first notes on the Hammond B-3 organ were so intense & dramatic. It gave me goose bumps. I became an instant fan. I'm just sorry I didn't get to hear him live.

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