Veteran soul singer, LEE ANDREWS – front man of doo-wop group THE HEARTS and father of Roots’ drummer Ahmir Questlove and soulstress Donn T – died on Wednesday, March 16th. He was 79 and it’s reported that he’d been ill for some time.
Born Arthur Lee Andrews Thompson, at Goldsboro, North Carolina in 1936, Lee eventually pitched up in Philadelphia where his father, Beechie Thompson became a member of the Dixie Hummingbirds and young Arthur soon immersed himself in music. He founded his first group in 1952 at High School. Originally called the Dreams, then the Dreamers, they impressed a local radio DJ, Kae Williams enough to make him want to become their manager. After auditioning with New York labels they realised that there was already a group called the Dreamers so they morphed into the Hearts, and as was the 50s vogue, the lead singer’s name was needed up front. Williams felt that Arthur Thompson didn’t have enough impact, so Lee Andrews (Arthur’s middle names) was born!
Lee Andrews and the Hearts went onto enjoy a string of moderate hits… most notably ‘Teardrops’, ‘Long Lonely Nights’ and ‘Try the Impossible’. In 1959 the group disbanded and Lee opened a clothing store in Philadelphia. In the 70s he made a comeback of sorts with soft soul quartet Congress Alley. The group were put together by Tymes producer Billy Jackson and were based on the style and sound of the Fifth Dimension . Lee was joined in the group by his wife, Jackie Andrews. Later Lee would, over the years, appear on tribute and oldies shows fronting different line ups of the Hearts.
Lee Andrews’ death was announced on social media by his son Questlove: “The Greatest Teacher in my life, my dad Lee Andrews June 2nd 1936-March 16 2016. I love you. For every backstage experience. For every drum lesson. For giving me your tireless work ethic. For our father & son record binging expeditions… For the years we fell out. For the years we put it back together. But really, for the last 2 conversations we had. I understand why you were so hard on me praying I didn’t succumb to a fate not meant for a teenager in west Philly in the mid 80s. I didn’t understand it at the time. But I appreciate it now. I hope Donn & I do you proud. “
Lee Andrews and the Hearts were inducted into the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame in 1992; the Roots were inducted in October last year. Questlove and Andrews then became the first father-and-son duo to be included on the Walk.