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A History of Blues – John Lee Hooker – Tupelo Blues

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    A History of Blues – John Lee Hooker – Tupelo Blues

    John Lee Hooker BLUES SHEET MUSIC

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    John Lee Hooker

    (Clarksdale, 1917 – 2001) American blues singer and guitarist who was the creator and greatest exponent of boogie, a raw and forceful derivation of traditional blues whose influence on rock has been incalculable: from the Rolling Stones or The Doors to Carlos Santana They have performed their songs.

    John Lee Hooker was born on August 22, 1917, on a farm near Clarksdale, Mississippi. On several occasions he himself changed his date of birth, placing it between 1917 and 1923, and on his death his family had to confirm the authentic date.

    Son of William Hooker, sharecropper and pastor of the Baptist Church, and Minnie Ramsey, John grew up with six brothers and four sisters in an environment where only religious music was allowed.

    During his childhood, he lived on the move to another farm on a nearby plantation, where he met bluesmen Snooky Pryor and Jimmy Rogers (then Jimmy Lane). His parents separated in 1928 and John was the only brother left in the care of his mother. His stepfather was local blues musician William Moore, who taught him to play the guitar when he was thirteen. Hooker later related that thanks to him, he met, as a child, legends such as Blind Lemon Jefferson or Charlie Patton, who would visit his house.

    In 1931, he began a series of moves, often as a vagrant, to the industrial north, a common destination for black southerners of his generation. He first settled in Memphis, where he lived with an aunt, worked in local theaters, and played with Robert Lockwood.

    In 1935, he moved to Cincinnati, where he alternated jobs as a shoe shiner or usher in theaters with performances in gospel groups. After a stint in the Army, he settled in Detroit in 1943, where he married twice (by his second wife, Maude Mathis, he had six children).

    Beginning a musical career

    In Detroit, he cemented his musical career, becoming one of the attractions of the Hasting Street venues, in the heart of the city’s black neighborhood. Legend has it that guitarist T-Bone Walker gave him his first electric guitar, with which Hooker invented his unmistakable style, a blend of rural southern blues with electrified Chicago rhythm and blues popularized by Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. .

    Elmer Barbee, his manager, arranged for him in 1948 to record his first single, Boogie Chillen, released on the West Coast by Modern Records. It was an immediate success and sold a million copies. Also in 1949 he released such classics as Hobo Blues and Crawling King Snake, and in 1951 the hit I’m in the Mood, with which he reached number one on the sales charts. He also published under different pseudonyms, such as John Lee Booker, Johnny Williams or John Lee.

    In his first recordings, he played alone with his guitar and marking the rhythm with his foot, or with the sporadic accompaniment of another guitarist. By then he was performing with a band, but experts presume that his peculiar sense of rhythm made him dispense with it in the studio. This did not prevent him from having notable success and touring throughout the country’s rhythm and blues circuit.

    Several generations of disciples

    Hooker’s rubbery boogie was a fundamental step towards Elvis Presley’s rock and roll. In 1955, he ended his contract with Modern Records and signed with Chicago’s Vee Jay Company, which released the classics Dimples and Boom Boom. By then he had already stopped recording alone, which was somewhat anachronistic for his time.

    However, by the end of the decade, with the rhythm and blues market stagnating, it found an enthusiastic audience among white traditional folk fans. From that time are the recordings of him again alone and with acoustic guitar, in which he recalled his rural origins in the Mississippi delta. With them, he achieved international repercussion and began to tour around the world.

    His inimitable style, which eschewed rhyme and sometimes even followed the beat, marked generations of musicians, from Bob Dylan, who opened for him in New York in 1960, to the noisy British rhythm and blues bands of the 1960s, like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds or the Animals.

    Records like Black snake (1959), Wednesday evening blues (1960) o Birmingham blues (1963) asserted their prestige on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1970, he got back into the mainstream by recording the album Hooker ‘n’ Heat with Canned Heat, disciples of his like so many other southern bands like ZZ Top. In 1979, already a legendary figure, he made a brief appearance in the movie Blues Brothers.

    After spending most of the 1970s and 1980s touring, in 1989 he released The Healer, with collaborations from Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Los Lobos. That album was one of the key elements in the revival of interest in blues in the 1990s, thanks to a public increasingly interested in ‘roots’ music.

    Paradoxically, John Lee Hooker did not know millionaire sales or fame until the last decade of his life, which explains his unusual activity in those years. The healer, released when he was seventy-two years old, was his best-selling album, and since then he has released another five, the last of them The best of friends, released in 1998.

    With Chill out (1996) he won a Grammy, the same year in which he participated in the Festival for the Freedom of Tibet together with young figures such as Smashing Pumpkins, Fugees or Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also lent the venerable yet tough image of himself for various commercials in the United States. His face also appeared on stamps from Tanzania, and his music served as the soundtrack for countless movies and TV commercials from different countries.

    Death surprised Hooker a few days after his last concert, at a venue in Santa Rosa, California, confirming the old myth of the bluesman who says goodbye clutching his guitar and singing.

    “This has been totally unexpected. He had the audience at his feet three or four times last Saturday. He liked contact with the public, and despite his advanced age, he did not stop acting until the end, ‘his agent, Rick Bates, told the Rosebud agency. The desolation that his loss caused in the world of music was expressed like no one else by one of his most devoted admirers, the Irish singer Van Morrison: ‘It’s hard to get used to a world without him,’ he said.

    A few weeks before his death, his last recording had been released: a collaboration for the Doors’ tribute album Stoned Immaculate. In it, he superimposed his voice on the classic Roadhouse blues, in an unlikely meeting with another unrepeatable legend, Jim Morrison, achieved thanks to technology.

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