Alvin Lee

2 minute read
Richard Lacayo

In the summer of 1969, when people talked frequently and without irony about guitar gods, the British blues rocker Alvin Lee secured his place on Mount Olympus with a single scorching performance at the Woodstock music festival. At the time his group, Ten Years After, was a well-regarded but low-profile platoon in the army of U.K. blues bands marching in the wake of Eric Clapton–including Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck Group and Fleetwood Mac. But then his fast-talking, low-moaning rendition of “I’m Going Home,” 11-plus minutes of ferocious rock prestidigitation, became a high point of the Woodstock movie and album. That was enough to launch Ten Years After into the world of big tours and top-selling albums like Cricklewood Green. It also scored one hit single, “I’d Love to Change the World,” a song that Lee didn’t care to perform in concert because long jams, not hit singles, were the kind of thing he cared about.

Lee, who was 68 when he died on March 6, dissolved the band in 1975 to pursue other projects. Though it regrouped in 1983, he still resisted the high drama of rock stardom. He didn’t go in for smashing his guitar onstage. He was too busy breaking the sound barrier.

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