Lewis is the kind of artist that gives you hope in creating. His captivating, sad ambient pop album(s) from the 1980s surfaced last year and was heralded as one of the best releases of 2014. Yet, no one really knew anything about the artist: he was some mythical guy that people wanted to know about but no one knew anything about. So who is Lewis?
The tale goes that he was a big Wall Street dude who made music on the side, without anyone knowing. He recorded his album L’Amour in an Los Angeles studio 1983 over a few days. He even had album artwork shot for it, too. Then, he disappeared. The album literally wasn’t heard until Light In The Attic found a home for it last year. Since then, people have obsessed with the artist, bewitched by his anti-fame mystique yet extreme professionalism.
Maxim apparently found him, though. In a winding story that plays like a musical cat-and-mouse game, writer Max Rivlin-Nadler was able to find and speak with the artist for his first media interview. Lewis is now living in his native Canada, walks with a cane, and speaks as elusively and delicately as his musical persona.
The man was tracked down by filmmaker Jack Fleischer and Light’s owner Matt Sullivan. They found his family, they tracked down old recording studios, and eventually found the man thanks to posts in coffee shops he apparently visited. That’s how they caught Lewis, who didn’t really seem to care that he was found in person or the success that he wanted.
“By the end of the second day, we got pretty discouraged,” Fleischer recalls. “We thought we had done all we could. So we went to the beach, and all of a sudden, we come to the stoplight, and Matt sees this striking guy. Huge. Six foot four. In the afternoon sun. Wearing all white. Has the cane. Brand-new tennis shoes, no socks. And it was him. It was Lewis.”
They approached and introduced themselves. The three men sat down at the café, and for the next hour they talked about his life, his music, and the warm reception it had found. Lewis, they said, didn’t seem to care.
“I had in my pocket a check for $20,000 in royalties, and I tried to give it to him,” Sullivan says. “But he turned it down. He signed a few copies of the album, but he wouldn’t take the money.” There was something very Lewis-like in the way he declined the check. “He said he had ‘no interest in coin,’” Sullivan recalls with a laugh. And that was it.
The entire tale and legacy of Lewis is something befitting of a dreamy documentary about love of art, love of artist, and expressing love. It’s the kind of art story that brings tears of hope to any creator’s eye, that we too can be discovered for our genius at some point. Lewis did that, thanks to some kind listener who caught onto to what the artist was doing.
Image this as a film: it’d be the the musical equivalent of Finding Vivian Maier. These stories are so enchanting as they represent dreams caught in vacuum. The only difference here is that the man who made the music is still alive. Reclusive and likely to decline a movie, sure, but it is absolutely a possibility. Please make this a reality, someone.