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Lee Hazlewood, 78; wrote Nancy Sinatra song 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin' '

August 07, 2007|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

"He knew how to reach the core of a person, and he knew how to take that information and create something with it. He really turned my life around in that sense as well," Sinatra said of his role as her producer. "Finding the truth in the core of me. . . . Not a Svengali kind of thing. Maybe it's more like a Henry Higgins. But there's a lot of Freud attached to it. He was brilliant in that."

But in the early 1970s, he was suddenly gone, first to Sweden and then all over the map, frequently traveling back and forth between Europe and the U.S.

Theories about his departure have proliferated, but Hazlewood said that he simply wanted to spend more time with his circle of friends outside the music business, and he scoffed at his image as a reclusive genius.

"There was a little bit of a thing about 'old mystery Lee' and stuff -- 'He moves around' and all that garbage. I have a reason for everything I've ever done. It's not just a haphazard sort of life."

He had made his own albums since 1963, and he continued in Europe, recording what he considered more personal and creative music.

He also did a reunion tour with Sinatra in 1996 and played solo shows in Europe in the first years of this decade, responding to his rediscovery by a younger generation.

On Monday, Sinatra recalled that the last time she saw him was at his birthday party at his home July 26.

"He was wearing a shirt that said 'I'm Not Dead Yet,' and his usual black baseball cap with an insignia on it. . . . We tried to sing 'Jackson,' and I managed to get out a verse, but he struggled so we stopped. But he was still smoking, and he had his Chivas in his hand, his beloved scotch. I guess at that point he said what the hell.

"When I hugged him goodbye he was pretty much all bones, and I know then there wasn't going to be much time left."

Hazlewood is survived by his wife, three children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Kelley said that there will be no services.

"He did not want anyone mourning his death, he wanted people to celebrate his life," she said. "So we are having a huge party next month."

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