Katie Lee (singer)

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Katie Lee
Katie Lee (singer).png
Background information
Birth name Kathryn Louise Lee
Born(1919-10-23)October 23, 1919
Aledo, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 1, 2017(2017-11-01) (aged 98)
Jerome, Arizona, U.S.
Genres Folk music
Occupation(s) Actress, folk singer, writer, photographer, environmental activist
Instruments Vocals
Website katydoodit.com

Katie Lee (October 23, 1919 – November 1, 2017) was an American folk singer, actress, writer, photographer and environmental activist. [1]


From the 1950s, Lee often sang about rivers and white water rafting. She was a vocal opponent of Glen Canyon Dam, which opened in 1963, and called for the canyon to be returned to its natural state; for her environmental activism, was often called "the Desert Goddess of Glen Canyon." [2]

Glen Canyon Dam dam on the Colorado River, Arizona, USA

Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in northern Arizona, United States, near the town of Page. The 710-foot (220 m) high dam was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) from 1956 to 1966 and forms Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. with a capacity of 27 million acre feet (33 km3). The dam is named for Glen Canyon, a series of deep sandstone gorges now flooded by the reservoir; Lake Powell is named for John Wesley Powell, who in 1869 led the first expedition to traverse the Colorado's Grand Canyon by boat.

Her obituary in The New York Times states, "Ms. Lee never forgave the builders of the Glen Canyon Dam and said the only thing that prevented her from blowing it up was that she did not know how." [2]

Early life

Kathryn Louise Lee was born in Aledo, Illinois on October 23, 1919 to decorator Ruth (Detwiler) and architect and homebuilder Zanna Lee. When she was three months old, her family moved to Tucson, Arizona. [2] She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama [3] . Following her graduation, she left for Hollywood where she studied with two of the most successful folksingers of the 1940s, Burl Ives and Josh White.

Tucson, Arizona City in Arizona, United States

Tucson is a city and the county seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, and home to the University of Arizona. The 2010 United States Census put the population at 520,116, while the 2015 estimated population of the entire Tucson metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was 980,263. The Tucson MSA forms part of the larger Tucson-Nogales combined statistical area (CSA), with a total population of 1,010,025 as of the 2010 Census. Tucson is the second-largest populated city in Arizona behind Phoenix, both of which anchor the Arizona Sun Corridor. The city is 108 miles (174 km) southeast of Phoenix and 60 mi (97 km) north of the U.S.–Mexico border. Tucson is the 33rd largest city and the 58th largest metropolitan area in the United States (2014).

University of Arizona Public university in Tucson, Arizona, United States

The University of Arizona is a public research university in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1885, the UA was the first university in the Arizona Territory. As of 2017, the university enrolls 44,831 students in 19 separate colleges/schools, including the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the James E. Rogers College of Law, and is affiliated with two academic medical centers. The University of Arizona is governed by the Arizona Board of Regents. The University of Arizona is one of the elected members of the Association of American Universities and is the only representative from the state of Arizona to this group.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts is the standard undergraduate degree for students in the United States and Canada seeking a professional education in the visual or performing arts.

Folk singer and author

Lee's early folk music albums, Songs of Couch and Consultation (1957) and Life Is Just a Bed of Neuroses (1960), parody the rising popularity of psychoanalysis at the time. [4] Both albums have long been out of print, but six of her later CDs remain available. [5] She also released three videos, including Love Song to Glen Canyon (DVD, 2007).

Folk music musical and poetic creativity of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Psychoanalysis psychological theory that was founded in 1890 by the Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental-health disorders. The discipline was established in the early 1890s by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and stemmed partly from the clinical work of Josef Breuer and others. Psychoanalysis was later developed in different directions, mostly by students of Freud such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, and by neo-Freudians such as Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan. Freud retained the term psychoanalysis for his own school of thought.

In 1964, Lee released an album on Folkways Records, entitled Folk Songs of the Colorado River. In the 1980s, she recorded a cassette-only release, Colorado River Songs, consisting of old songs popular among river runners on the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon, and some original compositions. This release was hailed by Edward Abbey and David Foreman, among others. Colorado River Songs was expanded to include more songs and re-released in 1997 on CD. She released Glen Canyon River Journeys on CD, which mixes music and her narration. She also was featured on the 2005 Smithsonian Folkways compilation album, Songs and Stories from Grand Canyon. In October 2011, Katie Lee was inducted into the Arizona Music Hall of Fame. [6]

Folkways Records was a record label founded by Moses Asch that documented folk, world, and children's music. It was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987 and is now part of Smithsonian Folkways.

Colorado River major river in the western United States and Mexico

The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. and two Mexican states. Starting in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the river flows generally southwest across the Colorado Plateau and through the Grand Canyon before reaching Lake Mead on the Arizona–Nevada border, where it turns south toward the international border. After entering Mexico, the Colorado approaches the mostly dry Colorado River Delta at the tip of the Gulf of California between Baja California and Sonora.

Edward Abbey American author and essayist

Edward Paul Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by environmental and eco-terrorist groups, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire.

She authored five books. Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle: A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story and Verse (1976) is a study of the music, stories, and poetry of the American cowboy, later recorded as an album with Travis Edmonson. [7] Sandstone Seduction, a 2004 memoir, relates Lee's continuing love affair with desert rivers and canyons, and discusses her Lady Godiva-style bicycle ride through downtown Jerome, Arizona, where she lived. [8]

Environmental activism

Glen Canyon Dam, to which Katie Lee was a vocal opponent Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge.JPG
Glen Canyon Dam, to which Katie Lee was a vocal opponent

Lee was known for her activism against the damming of rivers, and particularly her opposition to Glen Canyon Dam in Northern Arizona, which opened in 1963. [2] After joining a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon in 1953, she became a regular on river trips on the Colorado River and joined the opposition to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. [2] [9]

In September and October 1955, Tad Nichols, Frank Wright, and she traveled through and documented parts of the canyon that later were to be submerged. [10] This threesome named at least 25 of the side canyons they explored in Glen Canyon. [3] "When they drowned that place, they drowned my whole guts", Lee said in a 2010 interview. "And I will never forgive the bastards. May they rot in hell." [2] For her environmental activism, Lee was often described as "the Desert Goddess of Glen Canyon." [2]

Personal life

Lee was married at least twice. [2] She met her first husband, Edwin Carl "Brandy" Brandelius, Jr.—to whom her book Sandstone Seduction is dedicated—on a trip to Baja California. [11]

Brandy was a war veteran, a race car driver, announcer, and good friend of Turk Murphy. Lee noted Brandy as the prime influence on finishing and publishing her first book, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle. Brandy is the father of her son, Jerilyn Lee Brandelius, the author of The Grateful Dead Family Album , and her four step-children from his first marriage. Brandelius died while they were married. She later married and divorced businessman Eugene Busch, Jr. [2]

Lee lived in Jerome, Arizona from 1971 until her death in 2017; she died at her home there on November 1, 2017, aged 98. [12] [9] Lee's partner, Joey van Leeuwen, whom she met in 1979, committed suicide the day after her death. [2]

Chronicles of Lee's adventures in Baja California appear in the book Almost An Island by Bruce Berger. In 2016, a short documentary entitled Kickass Katie Lee was screened at Telluride Mountainfilm, [13] a documentary film festival where Lee was a regular guest. [14] Lee featured prominently in "Cry Me A River", a radio episode by The Kitchen Sisters, which explored the damming of American rivers. [15]

Lee's song, "Gunslinger", from Songs of Couch and Consultation, was translated to Swedish in 1965 and was recorded by Per Myrberg as "Skjutgalen". It also was recorded by the Limeliters on their 1961 album, The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters. This may still be available on a BMG Collectibles CD. Utah Phillips praised Katie Lee and Songs of Couch and Consultation on the 1996 album, The Past Didn't Go Anywhere on the track, "Half a Ghost Town".


Studio albums

Live albums


Lee published five books: [19]

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  1. Consists of readings and songs from Lee's book All My Rivers are Gone. [18]
  2. The songs on this album were recorded in February 1955. [18]
  3. Later republished as Glen Canyon Betrayed: A Sensuous Elegy, with an afterword by Lee. [7]


  1. "APTV". Aftenposten.no. January 1, 1980. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Sandomir, Richard, "Katie Lee, Folk Singer Who Fought to Protect a Canyon, Dies at 98", The New York Times, November 13, 2017, New York edition, page B7
  3. 1 2 "XTF: Search Results". www.azarchivesonline.org. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  4. 1 2 "Katie Lee" Space Age Pop. Archived November 22, 2017.
  5. "Welcome to Arizona's Real Katie Lee web site... | MUSIC". Katydoodit.com. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  6. "An Arizona Legend: Jerome's Katie Lee to be inducted into Arizona Music Hall of Fame – The Verde Independent – Cottonwood, Arizona". Verdenews.com. Archived from the original on 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  7. 1 2 "Glen Canyon's 'goddess' Katie Lee passes at 98" Grand Canyon News, November 14, 2017. Archived November 22, 2017.
  8. Lee, Katie (2004) Sandstone Seduction: Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends. Big Earth Publishing, ISBN   1-55-566338-9
  9. 1 2 Gillian Ferris (2017) "Katie Lee, 'Goddess of Glen Canyon,' Dies at Age 98", KNAU Arizona Public Radio, November 1, 2017.
  10. "Forgotten Canyon – Aerial view, September/October 1955: Colorado Plateau Archives". Archive.library.nau.edu. September 23, 1955. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  11. Katie Lee. "Sandstone Seduction: Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends". Books.google.com. p. 151. Retrieved 2016-01-31.
  12. Dan Engler and Vyto Starinska (2017) "Arizona icon, Jerome's Katie Lee, dies at age 98", Verde Independent, November 1, 2017; archived November 2, 2017.
  13. "Kickass Katie Lee" Telluride Mountainfilm official website. Archived November 22, 2017.
  14. "Remembering Katie, Fred and Ross" Telluride Mountainfilm official website. November 6, 2017. Archived November 22, 2017.
  15. "Cry Me A River" The Kitchen Sisters Present, Accessed 2 November 2017.
  16. "Spicy Songs for Cool Knights" Billboard , December 16, 1957, p34. Accessed November 22, 2017.
  17. "Folk Songs of the Colorado River" Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Archived December 22, 2017.
  18. 1 2 "Katie's Historical Discography" Katie Lee official website. Archived November 22, 2017.
  19. Corina Vanek (2017) "Singer, Arizona activist Katie Lee dies at 98" Arizona Daily Sun. November 1, 2017. Archived November 2, 2017.