Rebel Rouser

The recently rediscovered Lee Hazlewood finds his place among a new generation of fans

As for his own goals, Hazlewood notes, "I'd like to do one more album of all originals before they put me in my urn." Still, that day looks to be a long way in the distance, as the robust and ever irascible Hazlewood celebrates his birthday with a show in the Valley this week.

"I'll be 72 and I've never played in the Valley, never played by myself in America," says Hazlewood. "Al [Casey] has been trying to get me to do this for 150 years -- or at least half that long 'cause we're about half that old."

There is something suitably poignant in that fact that Hazlewood returns to the city that launched his career some 50 years later, arguably the most crucial figure in the history of Arizona music.

Cult icon Lee Hazlewood: Somewhere between 
obscure and infamous.
Cult icon Lee Hazlewood: Somewhere between obscure and infamous.
A young Hazlewood deep in thought.
A young Hazlewood deep in thought.

The show, subtitled "Somewhere Between Obscure and Infamous," will include a night-capping medley of Hazlewood hits, but the real treat for fans will be a slew of rarely (if ever) performed nuggets.

"I'll play all these obscure songs and hopefully people will get a kick out of it. I'll be getting a free birthday party out of it anyway," chuckles Hazlewood.

Even as he approaches the autumn of his life, it's hard to pin down the inscrutable legend as to the precise motivations and inspirations for his work. Those closest to him have never fully understood quite where his unique brand of creativity -- or the twisted melancholy of songs -- springs from. Or why he's only recently allowed an adoring public to get close to him.

"I think he wanted to write and perform his music but he didn't want to necessarily be accountable," suggests Pickerel. "He wanted it out there because it was an expression, but he didn't want to have people talk about it or ask him about it. And it's taken 30 years to do just that." Echoing the sentiments of Lee-o-philes everywhere, Pickerel adds, "I'm just so thrilled that he's finally accepted this newfound fascination with his work. And that he's finally indulging us a little bit.

"It would've been a shame if he never did."

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