Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

John Lee Hooker: 8.22.1917-6.21.2001

Posted on

The first time I heard John Lee Hooker was on a record called Blues at Newport ’63. John Lee was a darker, lonelier, sexier version of the pop music I’d been listening to. He didn’t need a band…just that voice, his guitar, and that foot tapping to cast his spell. I don’t know if I understood the word erotic—I was 14—but there was something really primal and earthy about it that connected with the pain and loneliness of adolescence. I’ve loved the blues ever since.

By 1970 I was in college and performing around Boston, and that’s when I first got the full assault of John Lee in person. I’d always thought of him as so foreboding—every promise of what male sexuality could be at its scariest. He made even Mick and Keith look like lightweights. I was intimidated when I met him, but then he smiled and it was all over. He’s as playful as he is dangerous—and we formed a pact that would last 30 years.

I was thrilled to finally record with him for The Healer (1989). We’d had a long friendship, but that was the first time I sat down and had him aim the full mojo of what he’s got at me. That duet was as powerful an erotic charge as I’ve had playing music. (Let’s just say it changed the way I think of men in their 70s and 80s.) That’s the thing about John Lee…he never lost it. From the Mississippi Delta juke joints to world festival stages, he was one of the baddest, funkiest, most unique bluesmen who ever lived. There’ll never be another like him.

(John Lee Hooker died in his sleep of undisclosed causes at his home in San Francisco.)

Comments