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Michael Lee
Birth name Michael Gary Pearson
Born November 19, 1969(1969-11-19)
Newcastle upon Tyne, England[1]
Died November 24, 2008 (aged 39)
Genres Hard Rock
Occupations Drummer
Instruments Drums
Years active 1986 - 2006
Associated acts Page and Plant
Robert Plant
Jimmy Page
The Cult
Echo & the Bunnymen
Thin Lizzy
Jeff Martin
Little Angels
Website Official MySpace

Michael Lee (born Michael Gary Pearson; 19 November 1969 – 24 November 2008) was an English drummer who toured and recorded with former Led Zeppelin musicians Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Lee was born in Newcastle, and, similar to Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, used large drum sizes, something he attributed to his height. His bass drum was 26" in diameter, and his snare drum was a brass 14" x 14" shell.

Contents

Early career

Lee left school at 16 to work in a music shop. He saved up to buy his first kit and played in cover bands and with a group called Holosade before travelling to California in 1988. Upon his return he started his professional career as drummer with Little Angels, a band from Scarborough who became one of the primary British rock acts of the early 90s and were on the verge of a major contract. Lee, the 66th person to audition, instantly impressed the frontman Toby Jepson:

He arrived last in the only clothes he owned, a pair of sticks and a huge grin. He then proceeded to play the life out of the rubbish kit we had hired for the auditions. He was so good that he actually made me laugh! It was the only honest reaction I could muster. I had never experienced such raw unadulterated talent, nor have I since. It was an incredible display that quite simply took my breath away.[2]

With Lee joining Jepson, Bruce John Dickinson (guitar), Dickinson's brother Jimmy (keyboards) and Mark Plunkett (bass), Little Angels signed to Polydor and released the albums Don't Prey for Me (1989) and Young Gods (1991). Several singles, most notably "Radical Your Lover" and "She's a Little Angel" – made the Top 40 but Lee was already considering his next career move and unbeknown to his bandmates, auditioned for The Cult. Lee was sacked from Little Angels during their Young Gods tour, after the auditioned was discovered, and was replaced in Little Angels by Mark Richardson. Lee helped The Cult promote the Ceremony album throughout the rest of 1991 and into 1992[3] before joining Plant's solo band.

Page and Plant

Lee joined Plant during the recording of his 1993 solo album Fate of Nations, and toured with the singer that year. So impressed was Plant with Lee's drumming that he asked him to be part of his next project, a collaboration with the Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Ostensibly billed as Page and Plant (rather than a Led Zeppelin reunion), what started as an MTV Unplugged special showcasing the acoustic, orchestral and world music strands rather than the hard-rocking side of the Zeppelin canon quickly became a major event.

The programme followed the musicians to Morocco and Wales but majored on two performances filmed in London in August 1994. A live album entitled No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded was issued in November 1994, and a video and world tour followed. Lee formed a tight rhythm section with the bassist Charlie Jones, and the pair also participated in the creation and recording of Walking Into Clarksdale, the album Page and Plant made with the alternative producer Steve Albini. Released in April 1998, Clarksdale was a collaborative effort credited to all four musicians and proved a great showcase for Lee, whose drumming propelled the "Most High" single into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Lee also helped co-write "Please Read the Letter", which later went on to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2009, with the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration.

Ultimately, it would be his work with Page and Plant that garnered him the highest profile. Paying tribute, Plant said:

Michael was the rhythm bridge between the 1970s and the 21st century. On the work which was not original, he had a tough gig to visit Bonham-driven classics and present his own imprint. He mastered and transfigured, introducing an inherent swing mixed up with his drum-and-bass leanings, he always encouraged.[4]

Later collaborations

In 1997, Lee drummed on Evergreen, the Echo & the Bunnymen comeback album and their anthemic Top Ten hit "Nothing Lasts Forever", and also contributed to their 1999 effort, What Are You Going to Do with Your Life?. He also played on the soundtrack to the 1998 Brian Gibson film Still Crazy, as part of the backing band Strange Fruit.[5] Lee also toured with the reunited Thin Lizzy in 2004 and performed on Gillan's Inn, the 2006 solo album by Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame. He has also worked with many other bands including Alaska, Sweet Janes and many more. Most recently Lee had toured with Jeff Martin and played drums on Martin's 2006 solo album, Exile and the Kingdom.

Death

Lee died on 24 November 2008 from an epileptic seizure. He was found dead in his flat and his funeral took place in his hometown of Darlington the following week. Former bandmates Toby Jepson and Jimmy Page were amongst the mourners in attendance.[6]

References

External links

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