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The 15 Greatest Blues Musicians of All Time: John Lee Hooker

By Thomas Swan t.swan@classicalite.com on Dec 27, 2015 05:53 AM EST

One could rank the fifteen best blues musicians of all time in some kind of order, but then the onus would be on the number rather than the stories each told or the lives they led, so this list will not be burdened by numbers. Instead, it will be all about the musicians and the music they created. Say hello to John Lee Hooker.

John Lee Hooker is a blues oddity. Very few, except maybe BB King and Lightnin' Hopkins, ever recorded as prodigiously as Johnny did. Sure, as critics charged, he might have repeated himself more than a few times (Hell, there are songs where Fred McDowell played the same guitar part, but just sang different lyrics.) but that shouldn't take away from the magic of John Lee Hooker.

John Lee Hooker, one of the early masters of electric blues, his guitar style every bit as distinctive as his gravelly singing voice, was born August 22, 1917 (though that's in dispute) to William Hooker and Minnie Ramsey. He was the youngest of eleven children. According to Wikipedia, "In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom John would later credit for his distinctive playing style). John's stepfather was his first significant blues influence. William Moore was a local blues guitarist who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time."

Johnny would eventually run away from home and wind his way to Detroit, post World War II, where there was a singular lack of quality. His guitar playing and vocal style summoned and released the demons from the pit of your soul and made it okay to be "bad." If being bad meant you could be this good, then somewhere the definitions got severely messed up. John Lee Hooker's guitar spoke more than any man.

Allmusic summed up Johnny this way, "beloved worldwide as the king of the endless boogie, a genuine blues superstar whose droning, hypnotic one-chord grooves were at once both ultra-primitive and timeless. But John Lee Hooker recorded in a great many more styles than that over a career that stretched across more than half a century. "

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Tags15 Greatest Blues Musicians John Lee Hooker, John Lee Hooker, Detroit Blues Scene in the 1940s, John Lee Hooker Biography

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