John Lee Hooker, 'father of boogie', dies aged 83

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

John Lee Hooker, the blues guitarist who inspired generations of musicians, died in his sleep yesterday in San Francisco. He was 83.

Known as the "father of boogie", Hooker's career spanned more than six decades and he was still performing regularly in his eighties.

He recorded more than 100 albums, which included seminal blues songs such as "Boogie Chillun", "Boom Boom" and "I'm in the Mood". He was famed for the unpolished passion of his music and his distinctive gravelly voice.

His management team said he was at home when he died with family and friends nearby.

"This was totally unexpected. He had the audience on their feet three or four times on Saturday night," said his manager Rick Bates. "He enjoyed performing and he found joy in sharing his music with people."

His one-chord boogie compositions and guitar work influenced rock 'n' rollers as well as rhythm and blues musicians. He worked with Van Morrison and Canned Heat with whom he collaborated on several tours. His music greatly influenced a number of British groups and musicians including The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.

He recorded under a number of different names to avoid the attentions of a series of record producers who tried to fleece him, demanding exclusivity deals or refusing to pay.

Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, one of 11 children. His stepfather taught him to play guitar and he started performing when he was a teenager. He worked odd jobs by day and played small bars at night in Memphis, Tennessee, then Cincinnati, where he also sang in gospel groups.

Finally he arrived in Detroit in the 1940s where he was discovered and recorded his first hit, "Boogie Chillun," in 1948. Hooker's popularity grew steadily as he rode the wave of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s into the R'n'B-influenced music of British bands in the Sixties.

In 1961, the then-unknown Rolling Stones opened for him on a European tour; he also shared a bill that year with Bob Dylan at a club in New York.

In 1980, he played a street musician in The Blues Brothers film and five years later his songs were used in Steven Spielberg's film The Color Purple. He also provided the soundtrack, along with jazzman Miles Davis, for The Hot Spot.

His real musical renaissance came with the 1990 album, The Healer, which featuring duets with Carlos Santana and Robert Cray, sold 1.5 million copies and won him his first of several Grammy Award for "I'm in the Mood".

Several more albums followed, including Mr Lucky and Chill Out, recorded to celebrate his 75th birthday. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

He once said: "I don't know what a genius is. I know there ain't no one ever sound like me, except maybe my stepfather.

"You hear all the kids trying to play like B B [King], and they ain't going to because, ooh, he's such a fine player and a very great man. But you never hear them even try and sound like John Lee Hooker."

Latterly, Hooker performed mostly in small clubs.

Comments