Born: August 22, 1912, Tutwiler, Mississippi
Died: June 21, 2002, Los Altos, California
Instruments: Guitar, Vocals
Years Active: 1942-2001
John Lee Hooker’s essence is all about blues music – a perfect embodiment of blues lore and history. His 2001 New York Times obituary says, “with his deep, implacable voice, he sang of lust and loneliness, rage and despair in songs so bleak that they sometimes made him cry behind his dark glasses.” His father was a sharecropper and a Baptist Preacher, and he was born near Clarksdale Mississippi, which has been home to blues greats like Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters. It is also marked on the Mississippi Blues Trail, and is the location of the Delta Blues Museum.
What is Blues Music About According to John Lee Hooker: “No matter what anybody says, it all comes down to the same thing, A man and a woman, a broken heart and a broken home.”
How to gear up like John Lee Hooker: If you want to play like John Lee Hooker, a good place to start is with his signature Sheraton II semi-hollow body guitar.
Essential Blues Music Tracks from John Lee Hooker:
Boogie Chillun Original blues shuffle boogie. The song embodies a fun time theme, a teenager’s need to dance, with an innocently subversive subtext, the child sneaking out to the clubs his mother warned him about.
Tupelo Blues A heartfelt narrative about a flood in Tupelo, Mississippi. Feel the full force of John Lee Hooker’s voice along with a trademark repetitive guitar part to experience what it must have been like to live through that destruction. A sad narration of hardship.
I’m Going Upstairs A classic blues story of a man getting kicked out of his house. Feel the lyric “You know, you know, baby you don’t want me no more. You can love babe, with your younger stud, baby” The 45 RPM single is also available.
Famous for Playing With: Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Canned Heat
Well known covers: George Thorogood sings One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer; The Animals sing Boom Boom; ZZ Topp pretty covers much of the essence of Boogie Chillun in La Grange (enough of the essence to have elicited a law suit; and Robert Plant croons a line from Boogie Chillun during the extended rendition of Whole Lotta Love in the Song Remains the Same.