Magazine article Newsweek

John Lee Hooker: Aug. 22, 1917-June 21, 2001

Magazine article Newsweek

John Lee Hooker: Aug. 22, 1917-June 21, 2001

Article excerpt

John Lee Hooker's first instrument was a set of "strings" made from strips of inner tube nailed to a barn wall. From there he soon graduated to a guitar, but the rawness--and the ingenuity--of that first instrument remained a part of this bluesman's music all his life. Hooker, who died last Thursday at 83, was a blues star for more than half a century. He had his first million-selling single, "Boogie Chillen," in 1948, and he was winning Grammys well into his 70s. But his success as a performer was equaled if not outshone by his influence as an artist, especially on younger rock musicians. Echoes of his gritty, syncopated singing and playing can be heard in younger musicians as diverse as ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt and Los Lobos. But none of them could ever quite match his singular sound. Easy to copy, the Hooker style was all but impossible to duplicate.

One of 11 children, Hooker grew up in a sharecropping family on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. …

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