john lee hooker – retrospective


Hooker was born on August 22, 1917 in Coahoma County, Mississippi, the youngest of the eleven children of William Hooker (1871–1923), a sharecropper and Baptist preacher, and Minnie Ramsey .

Hooker and his siblings were home-schooled. They were permitted to listen only to religious songs, with his earliest exposure being the spirituals sung in church. In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom John would later credit for his distinctive playing style)

Hooker’s guitar playing is closely aligned with piano boogie-woogie. He would play the walking bass pattern with his thumb, stopping to emphasize the end of a line with a series of trills, done by rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs. The songs that most epitomize his early sound are “Boogie Chillen”, about being 17 and wanting to go out to dance at the Boogie clubs, “Baby, Please Don’t Go“, a blues standard first recorded by Big Joe Williams, and “Tupelo Blues”,[12] a stunningly sad song about the flooding of Tupelo, Mississippi in April 1936.

Be impressed by the subtly, the timing of :

Tupelo

Despite being illiterate, Hooker was a prolific lyricist. In addition to adapting the occasionally traditional blues lyric (such as “if I was chief of police, I would run her right out of town”), he freely invented many of his songs from scratch. Recording studios in the 1950s rarely paid black musicians more than a pittance, so Hooker would spend the night wandering from studio to studio, coming up with new songs or variations on his songs for each studio. Because of his recording contract, he would record these songs under obvious pseudonyms such as John Lee Booker, notably for Chess Records and Chance Records in 1951/52,as Johnny Lee for De Luxe Records in 1953/54 as John Lee, and even John Lee Cooker,or as Texas SlimDelta John,Birmingham Sam and his Magic GuitarJohnny Williams, or The Boogie Man.

An old favourite, but a great rendition – Baby please dont go

From Last FM

John Lee Hooker could be said to embody his own unique genre of the blues, often incorporating the boogie-woogie piano style and a driving rhythm into his masterful and idiosyncratic blues guitar and singing.

A well worn song but whichever way he sings it  -he brings typical JLH magic to the riff

Dimples

A quieter tune

No shoes

An early commentary on the blues in  a social context

Serves me right to suffer

Fancy a drink?

One bourbon, one scotch and one beer

Blues before sunrise

Crawling King Snake

Rock me baby

His famous boom boom – from the 60’s

They say he had an eye for women….

Big legs tight skirt

and how about some ‘High priced women’

hobo blues

From a JLH website

John Lee’s Hooker music has appeared in many different capacities. Here is a listing on how his music touched his many fans and some of the Awards and Achievements he accomplished in his career. Please check out the Audio Clips section to listen to some of his many songs.

From the same site -details of publications:

Boogie Man – The Adventures of John Lee Hooker In The Twentieth Century – Charles Shaar Murray’s acclaimed biography, eight years in the making. Published by Viking, 1999

John Lee Hooker – Vintage Blues Guitar – Mel Bay Publications, 1996.

John Lee Hooker – For Guitar Tab – Wise Publications, 1994.

John Lee Hooker – The Healer – Hal Leonard, 1991.

In his later years he played with a wide variety of musicians -try Carlos Santana for a start:

Chill Out

and the healer with Carlos once more

and with his musical friends some chat and then music

Some of his many recordings (from the John Lee Hooker website)

ALBUMS

The Best of Friends – Three new recording with Eric Clapton, Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite and Ry Cooder complement this collection of John Lee Hooker’s best recording from the past decade. (10/98)

Don’t Look Back – John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison finally realized their decade old plan of doing an entire CD together. The lone exception to this collaboration is the lead track produced by and performed with Los Lobos. Van duets on four tracks in addition to producing ten. Charles Brown guests and his guitarist and bassist along with Robert Cray’s keyboardist and drummer supply solid backing throughout. The album won the Best Traditional Blues Grammy Award, and Hooker and Morrison’s duet “Don’t Look Back” received the Grammy in the Best Pop Collaboration.

Chill Out – The title track features long time supporter Carlos Santana and his band. Van Morrison further cements their longstanding friendship with a duet on “Medley: Serves Me Right To Suffer / Syndicator.” Charles Brown and his band join in on “Kiddio” and “Annie Mae.” Chill Out was awarded the Grammy for the Best Traditional Blues Album. (2/95)

Boom Boom – The third release in the series of comeback records for John Lee Hooker. The title track featuring Jimmie Vaughan hit #16 on the UK singles chart and was the foundation for the Lee Jeans campaign throughout Europe. Other guest on the project included Albert Collins, The Robert Cray Band, John Hammond and Charlie Musselwhite. (10/92)

Mr. Lucky – John Lee Hooker’s follow up to the Healer features Albert Collins, Ry Cooder, Robert Cray, John Hammond, Johnnie Johnson, Van Morrison, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana and Johnny Winter. Debuted at #3 on the UK album chart, the highest ranking ever for a blues album. (9/91)

The Healer – John Lee Hooker’s comeback album features guest artists Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt, George Thorogood, Charlie Musselwhite and Canned Heat. The record was certified gold in the U.S. and earned gold and platinum awards worldwide. (8/89)

I’m in the mood -with Bonny Rait

INDIVIDUAL TRACKS

“Somebody’s Watching” and “Bad Dream Catcher” – John Lee’s guitar work featured on two songs from John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers” Padlock on The Blues. (1999)

“Boom Boom” – Big Head Todd & The Monsters record John Lee’s hit “Boom Boom”, with John Lee adding his vocals, on their CD Beautiful World. (2/97)

“Gloria” – John Lee joins van Morrison for a live concert reprise of Van’s classic “Gloria” for Morrison’s live CD A Night In San Francisco. (5/94)

“You Shook Me” – John Lee duets with B.B. King on this Willie Dixon song for B.B.’s Blues Summit album marking the first time the old friends have recorded together. The track features Robert Cray and Roy Rogers on guitar, and Kim Wilson on harp. (6/93)

“Gloria” – A new version of the classic song recorded by Van Morrison and John Lee. Released as a single in the U.S. and U.K. the track appeared on Morrison’s album, Too Long In Exile. (5/93)

“Wasted Years” – Recorded by Van Morrison and John Lee for Van’s Too Long In Exile. (5/93)

“Mabel” – Branford Marsalis’ Grammy-winning Columbia Heard You Twice The First Time features John Lee Hooker’s song “Mabel” on which John Lee also performed. (Other guests on the album include B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis and Linda Hopkins.) (9/92)

“Driftin’ Blues” – John Lee duets with John Hammond on this Charles Brown classic for Hammond’s Pointblank debut and Grammy nominated Got Love If You Want It. (9/91)

“Red House” – John Lee Hooker’s version of the song “Red House,” recorded specifically for Variations On A Theme: Red House. The rest of the album consists of six different performances of the song by Jimi Hendrix. (4/90)

” The Iron Man” – Pete Townshend album features John Lee on two tracks in the title role. (6/89)

 

He’s still working….

The John Lee Hooker Foundation

Established in 2001 by the Hooker family, the John Lee Hooker Foundation is an IRS-recognized non-profit organization.

The John Lee Hooker Foundation mission is to: Provide funding and support for music, art and education programs for underprivileged, underrepresented and at-risk youth in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond by continually raising and maintaining funding year-round for distribution to non-profit organizations in need.

The foundation intends to preserve John Lee Hooker’s generous and compassionate spirit and ensure that young people from all walks of life have access to cultural, musical and artistic exposure.

 

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~ by Ray Harris on November 30, 2010.

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