An inspiration to generations of musicians, legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was born on this day in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropping Baptist minister.
"When I was a kid comin' up, I would pretend I was goin' to school and hide out in the woods with my old guitar," he said.
Called the "King of Boogie" and "Mr. Lucky," the singer-guitarist made famous such distinctive, rhythmic, foot-stomping tunes as Boom Boom and In the Mood. "I love the blues," Hooker once said. "I was born with the blues, and I just dig it. Nothing else I want to do, and I wouldn't do anything else in the world but this."
In 1948, he cut his first record, Boogie Chillen, a celebration of electric boogie-woogie blues. The song hit big, selling about a million copies. "You cannot get what I got out of a book," he explained. "You got to have talent." His voice was raw, his style passionate. He helped bring the blues into mainstream music.
"The blues is the only music. I don't try to figure it out too much though. Just is," said the father of boogie. "Everybody in the world has the blues."
In a nonstop career of nearly 70 years, Hooker recorded over 100 albums and was a major influence on Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Dylan, and many others. "People say I'm a genius," Hooker reflected with humility. "But I don't know about that."
In tribute, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards said, "You're not going to mistake John Lee Hooker for anybody else--it was just such a fascinating sound, and so different to the other stuff I've heard.. so electric, and sounded as if he'd somehow jumped a generation... I learned those John Lee Hooker chords, which are very strange shapes, and it immediately affected everything I did since then."
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