John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker is often referred to as the “King of the Boogie” as his guitar playing was very closely aligned with the boogie-woogie piano style. His sound was distinct, and even though the electric blues were taking over at that time, Hooker’s sounds were reminiscent of the Delta blues, especially due to his one-chord and two-chord modal styling, but stronger and more rhythmic. In an article published in the Independent, Hooker had described his sound as follows: “I don't like no fancy chords. Just the boogie. The drive. The feeling. A lot of people play fancy but they don't have no style. It's a deep feeling - you just can't stop listening to that sad blues sound. My sound”. His unique “talking blues” style and distinct vocal talents had influenced rock and folk during later years, and one of his most famous songs Boogie Chillen” is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Songs of the Century” list.  Both “Boogie Chillen” and “Boom Boom” are also included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.
Hooker’s songs have been covered by many prominent artists over the years, including Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, ZZ Top, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, The White Stripes, The Doors, The Yardbirds, Cream, AC/DC, and many others. Hooker has his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. He is a multiple Grammy Award winner, and won his first Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Recording in1990, for the duet “I'm in the Mood” with Bonnie Raitt. He won his next Grammy in 1998, for the song “Don’t Look Back”, also in the Best Traditional Blues Recording category. These were followed by the Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 1998, for “Don’t Look Back” with Van Morrison, followed by the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. 

Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 17, 1920. His sharecropper father did not approve of the blues, and used to call it the “devil's music”. Nevertheless, Hooker’s interest in music blossomed, and finally took off when his parents got a divorce and his mother married blues musician William Moore. Moore taught the young boy how to play the guitar, and Hooker had later credited his stepfather as his mentor. The duo played at house parties together, but Hooker was hungry for a wider audience, and ran away to Memphis when he was 15, and then on to Cincinnati, and finally moved to Detroit in 1943. He was playing at house parties and local blues clubs, and then “Boogie Chillin” was recorded in 1948 and he became an instant star. The combination of his vocals, electric guitar and his foot tapping sounds was refreshing and original, and the song made it all the way up to the top spot on 1949’s R&B charts. Hooker’s later hits include “Boom Boom”, “Crawling King Snake” and “Rock House Boogie”, among others.  Hooker played a role in the 1980 movie Blues Brothers, and had appeared in commercials for Pepsi, Lee Jeans and other products. He finally breathed his last at home in Los Altos, California, on June 21, 2001. With over 500 recorded tracks under his belt, Hooker is undoubtedly one of the most recorded bluesmen of all time.  

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