Happy Birthday John Lee Hooker

I say Happy Birthday John Lee Hooker, but the date is not really certain. There are a few dates between 1912 and 1923. However it appears that August 22 is correct.

Hooker’s date of birth is a subject of debate; the years 1912, 1915, 1917, 1920, and 1923 have all been suggested. Most official sources list 1917, though at times Hooker stated he was born in 1920. Information found in the 1920 and 1930 censuses indicates that he was actually born in 1912.In 2017, a series of events took place to celebrate the purported centenary of his birth. In the 1920 federal census, John Hooker is seven years old and one of nine children living with William and Minnie Hooker in Tutwiler, Mississippi.

Born into a Mississippi sharecropping family, Hooker learned to play the guitar from his stepfather and developed an interest in gospel music as a child. In 1943 he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he made his mark as a blues musician. On such early records as “Boogie Chillen,” “Crawling King Snake,” and “Weeping Willow (Boogie)” (1948–49), Hooker, accompanied only by an electric guitar, revealed his best qualities: aggressive energy in fast boogies and no less intensity in stark, slow blues. A primitive guitarist, he played simple harmonies, pentatonic scales, and one-chord, modal harmonic structures. Later hits included “Dimples” (1956) and “Boom Boom” (1962). He toured widely from the 1950s and appeared in the motion pictures The Blues Brothers (1980) and The Color Purple (1985). Hooker, whose music influenced such bands as the Rolling Stones and the Animals, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Among the more than 100 albums he recorded are The Healer (1989), which features appearances by Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana; the Grammy Award-winning Don’t Look Back (1997); and The Best of Friends (1998).

John Lee Hooker, found refuge in music at an early age as he struggled with stuttering from childhood. In the biography Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century, author Charles Shaar Murray states, “Hooker sounds as if he has $100,000 worth of sophisticated digital goodies built in his chest and his throat. Yet his voice is quiet and muted, its tonal richness offset by a residual stammer and blurred by the deepest alluvial accents of the Mississippi Delta.”

Hooker’s stepfather, William Moore, taught him to play guitar when he was around 12 years old. It was then that Hooker was introduced to what would become his unique style of blues. When he was 14, Hooker ran away from Mississippi to try and make it as a musician. He lived for several years in Memphis, Tennessee, before ending up in Detroit. It was there that he showed up at the office of a record label owner named Bernard Besman and played the owner/producer his demo.

We may not know the exact birth date but we do know he died in his sleep on June 21, 2001, in Los Altos, California in his home. He is interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California. He was survived by eight children, 19 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.

Hooker was among hundreds of artists whose recordings were reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

sources

YouTube

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Lee-Hooker

https://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/john-lee-hooker

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/jun/23/guardianobituaries

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lee_Hooker

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