Thursday, February 16, 2017

How will you celebrate John Lee Hooker's one hundredth birthday?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 2:00 AM

  • Hooker in the 1960s, on the BBC. Courtesy photo.

Detroit's finest blues musician turns one hundred years old this year, in August. Sure, he was born in Mississippi. But John Lee Hooker became a musician in Detroit, after moving here to work for Ford in the 1940s like so many other thousands of black men from Mississippi. And it is here between 1948 and 1955 that this genius of sharp modern boogie cut all of his most important early records (including multiple titles under a variety of pseudonyms to get around record label contracts).

We haven't heard whether or not the architects of New Detroit are going to dedicate a stretch of their expanded monorail to the artist, or throw up a little statue of him, or maybe name a really expensive cocktail bar after one of his songs. Maybe the centennial will be largely forgotten? It would be nice if there was a concerted effort to reissue some of his best music, like that one strange record he recorded for Impulse which I linked to last year. This compilation out next month might do for someone who doesn't really listen to music much; get it for your uncle, or whoever.

But how to rejoice? How to celebrate? Before you go making up your own neo bluegrass trip-hop remix of the guys' music yourself, perhaps just sit down and have a listen. Drink a tall glass of something. This person cut a lot of records in his career; this might take a minute. I'm having a latte, but you might opt for something else.

If you want to hear those early Detroit sides, you can do worse than this triple LP on UA from 1973 which later got remastered and expanded for Capitol. Perhaps have a look at the TV studio footage from 1970 shot at Wayne State for Detroit's legendary Tubeworks program?

Let's all plan something real nice for his centennial on August 22. It just cannot be cheesy. Ideas?

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