Bill Lee married his college sweetheart who was enrolled at a neighbouring college, Jacqueline Shelton, a 1954 Spelman College graduate. With his first wife, Jackie, he had four children; film director Spike Lee, still photographer, David Lee, actress Joie Lee and filmmaker Cinque Lee.
The family moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 1959.
Lee was involved in many releases from the Strata-East jazz record label, including directing the 1980 album, The New York Bass Violin Choir.
Lee played the bass for artists including Chris Anderson, Cat Stevens, John Lee Hooker and many others.
On the original release of Dylan’s classic song, “It’s Over Now, Baby Blue”, Lee, on the bass guitar, is the only musician performing other than Dylan himself.
Lee was arrested on October 25, 1991, in Fort Greene for carrying a small bag of heroin during a police drug sweep of a park near his home. Lee would later say of his arrest, “I’m glad I was arrested, It woke me up.”