John Lee Hooker

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Black Hat. Dark Sunglasses. Sound like a Blues Brother to you? It is. The original Blues Brother. Inspiration to Jake and Elwood. Master songwriter, electric guitar titan, best-selling bluesman…John Lee Hooker.

He didn’t play the Delta Blues. He wasn’t groovin’ in Chicago. Didn’t listen to records to pick up licks. See, John Lee Hooker played a blues all his own. He developed his own meter. Changed up rhythms so much it was hard to find musicians to back him. But that didn’t matter.

John Lee Hooker could summon the power of a full band all by himself. Could haul a symphony out of a single chord. He couldn’t read or write, but his lyrics cut to the core of the human experience.

That’s what’s so incredible about John Lee Hooker. He took simplicity into his big, rough hands, and coaxed out unmatched complexity.  There wasn’t anyone making music like him. From the Delta where he was born to Detroit, where he made his home. He really was a singular being.

Here’s a sweet one. An early song. A song about bein’ 17 years old. And just wantin’ to go out and dance. John Lee Hooker. Boogie Chillen.

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John Lee Hooker was born August 22, 1917 near Clarksdale, Mississippi. Initially only allowed to listen to religious music, John Lee learned to play his unique style of blues guitar from his stepfather, William Moore. Throughout the thirties, Hooker lived in Memphis, Tennessee, before moving to Detroit in the early forties. Hooker found work in the Detroit auto industry, playing house parties before he was discovered and brought into the studio. In 1948, Hooker nailed his first number-one jukebox hit, the song “Boogie Chillen.” It was followed by an impressive number of hits: VeeJay records released a staggering 100 plus John Lee Hooker songs during the fifties and sixties. The folk blues revival of the era helped skyrocket him to international stardom, and by the 70s, Hooker had moved to California and begun to work on projects with notable musicians like Van Morrison and Canned Heat. In 1980, Hooker performed in the Blues Brothers movie, and due to his style of improvisation was actually recorded live on the soundstage, rather than pre-recorded and played back. John Lee continued to tour and record throughout his life, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. By the time of his death on June 21, 2001, he’d recorded over 100 albums.