Originally published on Obit-Mag.com.
Lee Hazlewood worked with country and western elements to produce an iconic and revered pop sound that influenced generations of musicians and producers to come. He is best known for his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra on numerous records including “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” (1966), which Hazlewood produced, and “Some Velvet Morning” (1967), a duet between Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Hazlewood died on August 4, 2007 at the age of 78. He had been diagnosed with renal cancer in 2005.
The thematic weight of his work often revolved around a distinctly American re-interpretation of existential dread and loneliness, but set to odd pyschadaelic arrangements, deceptive tempo and bright instrumentation.
The 1956 record “The Fool” was written and produced by Hazlewood and performed by Sanford Clark. It was a rockabilly tune that was Hazlewood’s first hit. He developed innovative techniques for producing twangy guitar sounds by placing a microphone and a guitar amp in unexpected, acoustically distinct places like elevators and warehouses. These eccentric practices became Hazlewood’s trademark. He developed a reputation as a maverick, an innovator.
This reputation helped him cozy up to the Rat Pack. He produced records for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. But it wasn’t until Sinatra asked Hazlewood to produce his daughter’s record that Hazlewood produced his most timeless work.
After refashioning Nancy Sinatra’s image as a vengeful lost child of love, Hazlewood and Sinatra hit it big with their timeless song, “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” It's hard to imagine American popular culture without “Boots”.
None of their subsequent duets would ever approach the popularity of “Boots”. And Hazlewood spent much of the 1970s in Sweden where he recorded a string of solo records in relative obscurity. In the 1990s bands like Sonic Youth helped popularize Hazlewood’s solo records. They have become alternative country and rock gems.
Hazlewood’s last record, Cake or Death, was released shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than some grand testament to mortality, Hazlewood produced a gentle, personal record featuring close friends. His individuality as a musician never waned.