John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker, also known as the King of the Boogie, was an American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist born on August 22, 1917 near Clarksdale, Mississippi. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential blues musicians of the 20th century and had an incredible impact on modern music. Famously known for his instantly recognisable ‘boogie’ style, Hooker created his own very unique style and sound. He recorded over 300 songs, including blues hits ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Hobo Blues’, ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ and ‘Boogie Chillen’

Born into a sharecropping family, the young John Lee Hooker was first introduced to Spirituals sung in church. Spirituals originated from field holler songs sung by enslaved African-Americans working in the cotton or the sugar cane fields to describe the hardship of slvery. In 1921, John Lee Hooker’s parents separated and his mother Minnie married William Moore, a blues musician who will become Hooker’s most significant blues influence. William Moore taught his stepson how to play the guitar and Hooker later credited him for teaching him his distinctive playing style. Another influence was Tony Collins, who reportedly gave Hooker his first guitar.

By the early 1940s, John Lee Hooker moved to Detroit, Michigan where he worked as a janitor in auto factories. At night, John Lee Hooker played in blues clubs and house parties and rapidly gained an audience. Amongst his fans was Elmer Barbee, a record store owner, who introduced Hooker to producer, record distributor and owner of Sensation Records, Bernard Hensman. John Lee Hooker started recording his early songs with the producer, including ‘Boogie Chillen’ which was an immediate success, selling over one million copies. Although Bernard Hensman had his own record label, the songs were all licensed to LA-based Modern Records. John Lee Hooker later signed to Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, with whom he kept a prolific recording schedule, recording over 100 songs.

During the 1960s, John Lee Hooker gained an even bigger exposure thanks to the Folk movement raising in America at the time and the British Blues boom in Europe where bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds covered some of Hooker’s songs, introducing his music to a new audience and eventually helped him build a blues superstar status. By the 1970s, John Lee Hooker collaborated with many rock acts such as Canned Heat and the Groundhogs.

In 1980, John Lee Hooker made a famous appearance in the cult classic The Blues Brothers where he performs one of his most famous hits, ‘Boom Boom’. In 1989, Hooker released the biggest album of his career, ‘The Healer’, in collaboration with musicians such as Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt. A year later, Hooker won the Best Traditional Blues Recording Grammy award for the track ‘I’m in the mood’. In 1991, John Lee Hooker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1997, John Lee Hooker won Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy award for the album ‘Don’t Look Back’, co-produced by Van Morrison and Mike Kappus. In that same year, Hooker was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2000, John Lee Hooker was recognised with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. A few months later, on June 21, 2001, John Lee Hooker passed away in Los Altos, Los Angeles at the age of 83. The music, however, still lives on.

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