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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
A life in blues: John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
Hooker went on playing until the end
John Lee Hooker was a giant of the blues whose career covered pre-war acoustic blues, the electric blues of the 1950s, the blues revival of the 1960s and went on to have a golden autumn.

His deep, gravelly voice and his uniquely haunting guitar - heard on hits like Boom Boom, Dimples and Boogie Chillen - electrified audiences and inspired generations of musicians.

John Lee Hooker
Hooker performing in February 2001
Born in Clarksdale in the Mississppi Delta, he was one of 11 children born to a Baptist minister and sharecropper who discouraged his son's musical bent.

His stepfather taught him to play guitar and by the time Hooker was a teenager, he was performing at local fish fries and dances.

First hit

Hooker hit the road to perform by the age of 14, working odd jobs by day and played small bars at night in Memphis, then Cincinnati and finally Detroit in 1943.

In Detroit, he was discovered and recorded his first hit, Boogie Chillen, in 1948.

Hooker produced classic sides for blues labels like Modern, King, Savoy Chess and Crown - often circumventing cheating producers or previous contracts by recording under different names, including Texas Slim, John Lee Booker, John Lee Cocker, Delta John, Birmingham Sam and the Boogie Man.

Hooker estimated that he had recorded more than 100 albums over nearly seven decades.


He won a Grammy Award for a version of I'm In The Mood, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2000 Grammys.

Through it all, Hooker's music remained hypnotic and almost unchanged - his rich and sonorous voice, full of blues feeling, echoed by his brooding, rhythmic guitar.

He influenced a generation of black blues musicians before being appreciated by guitarists of the 1960s rock boom, including John Mayall and Johnny Winter.

In 1980, he played a street musician in The Blues Brothers movie and in 1985, his songs were used in Steven Spielberg's film, The Color Purple.

Hooker staged a huge comeback in 1989 with his album The Healer, featuring duets with Santana, Raitt and Robert Cray.


The album sold 1.5 million copies and won him his first Grammy Award, for the duet I'm in the Mood with Bonnie Raitt.

In his last years, Hooker laid back and enjoyed his success, recording occasionally and posing for advertisements.

He played benefits from time to time, but mostly performed in small clubs, sometimes dropping in unannounced.

Hooker is survived by eight children; 19 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

At his death on Thursday he was said to be 83, though the bluesman himself admitted to some confusion about his real age.

The BBC's Peter Bowes
"There were very few who could copy his technique"
Charles Shaar Murray, Biographer for John Lee Hooker
"A unique and distinctive performer"
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