1933 - 2020
Floyd Lee New York City Blues Legend Dies At 86
Mississippi bluesman Floyd Lee who also went by the name of Theodore Williams died Sunday, June 7th, 2020 at Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus Ohio of heart failure at the age of 86.
Mr. Lee, a vocalist and guitarist who was known for his passionate performances in the train stations and street festivals around New York City since the early 1970s found a successful recording career in the 2000's with Mean Blues becoming one of his most popular songs.
Mr. Lee was the founding member of the Music Under New York Program, formerly Arts for Transit, and later being a judge on their board. He performed at Mayor Dinkins's inauguration with Nelson Mandela in attendance.
Mr. Lee worked as a doorman for twenty-seven years at the Normandy Apartments on the Upper Westside of Manhattan before retiring in 1996. He then devoted his full time to his music career where he ended up traveling the world playing music festivals in countries such as France, Switzerland, Japan and Russia as well as touring all around the US.
Mr. Lee was born in Lamar Mississippi August 20th, 1933. Given away at one month old, he picked and chopped cotton as a child in the summer months and attended school in Memphis Tennessee in the winter months. He was inspired by his father Guitar Floyd and Guitar Slim to start playing the guitar and also by his mother singing while working in the cotton fields and doing chores around the house. At the age of ten, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was sent to live with relatives in Chicago.
Mr. Lee then moved with his relatives to Cleveland Ohio where he sold newspapers and became a batboy for the Cleveland Indians. As an adult, he started performing at rent parties and playing guitar with bluesman Jimmy Reed when he'd come to town. He also sang in the doo-wop group the Thunderbirds and participated in the Alan Freed Rock 'n Roll shows.
Mr. Lee was the subject of a documentary entitled Full Moon Lightnin' where he reconnects with his family in Mississippi after sixty years apart. The film won the Living Blues Award in 2009 for Best Blues Documentary in Living Blues magazine's readers poll.
Published in New York Times from Jun. 11 to Jun. 12, 2020.