John Lee Hooker

Known to music fans around the world as the “King of the Boogie,” John Lee Hooker endures as one of the true superstars of the blues genre: the ultimate beholder of cool. His work is widely recognized for its impact on modern music – his simple, yet deeply effective songs transcend borders and languages around the globe. Each decade of Hooker’s long career brought a new generation of fans and fresh opportunities for the ever-evolving artist. He never slowed down either: As John Lee Hooker entered his 70s, he suddenly found himself in the most successful era of his career – reinvented yet again, and energized as ever, touring and recording up until his passing in 2001.

Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropping family, John Lee Hooker‘s earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, William Moore ̶— a blues musician who taught his young stepson to play the guitar, and whom John Lee later credited for his unique style on the instrument.

By the early 1940s, Hooker had moved north to Detroit by way of Memphis and Cincinnati. By day, he was a janitor in the auto factories, but by night, like many other transplants from the rural Delta, he entertained friends and neighbors by playing at house parties. “The Hook” gained fans around town from these shows, including local record store owner Elmer Barbee. Barbee was so impressed by the young musician that he introduced him to Bernard Besman ̶ a producer, record distributor and owner of Sensation Records. By 1948, Hooker ̶ now honing his style on an electric guitar ̶ had recorded several songs for Besman, who, in turn, leased the tracks to Modern Records. Among these first recordings was “Boogie Chillun,” (soon after appearing as “Boogie Chillen”) which became a number one jukebox hit, selling over a million copies. This success was soon followed by a string of hits, including “I’m in the Mood,” “Crawling Kingsnake” and “Hobo Blues.” Over the next 15 years, John Lee signed to a new label, Vee-Jay Records, and maintained a prolific recording schedule, releasing over 100 songs on the imprint.

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When the young bohemian artists of the 1960s “discovered” Hooker, among other notable blues originators, he found his career taking on a new direction. With the folk movement in high gear, Hooker returned to his solo, acoustic roots, and was in strong demand to perform at colleges and folk festivals around the country. Across the Atlantic, emerging British bands were idolizing Hooker’s work. Artists like the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker’s sound to new and eager audiences, whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker up to superstar status. By 1970, Hooker had relocated to California and was busy collaborating on several projects with rock acts. One such collaboration was with Canned Heat, which resulted in 1971’s hit record Hooker ’n’ Heat. The double LP became John Lee Hooker’s first charting album.

Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, John Lee toured the U.S. and Europe steadily. His appearance in the legendary Blues Brothers movie resulted in a heightened profile once again. Then, at the age of 72, John Lee Hooker released the biggest album of his career, The Healer. The GRAMMY® Award-winning 1989 LP paired contemporary artists (Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos and George Thorogood, among others) with Hooker on some of his most famous tracks. The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sold over one million copies. The Hook rounded out the decade as a guest performer with the Rolling Stones, during the national broadcast of their 1989 Steel Wheels tour.

With his recent successes, John Lee entered the 1990s with a sense of renewed inspiration. Not only was the decade a time of celebration and recognition for the legendary artist, but it was also a highly productive era. He released five studio albums over the next few years, including Mr. Lucky, which once again teamed up Hookerwith an array of artists; Boom Boom, which aimed to introduce new fans to his classic material; the GRAMMY® Award-winning Chill Out; and a collaboration with Van Morrison, Don’t Look Back, which also garnered two awards at the 1997 GRAMMYs®. Throughout the decade, Hooker’s great body of work and contributions to modern music were being recognized not only by his peers, but also by a younger generation. He became a familiar face in popular culture, with appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. In 1990, a massive tribute concert took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, featuring Hooker and an all-star lineup of guest artists. One year later, John Lee was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while in 1997, he was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, shortly before his death, John Lee Hooker was recognized with a GRAMMY® Lifetime Achievement Award, and just one week before his passing, ever true to form, the bluesman spent his final Saturday night playing a now-legendary show to a packed house at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA.

The Hook continues to live on: His music can regularly be heard in TV shows, commercials and films, and many of his tracks have also found a second life sampled in new songs – by the likes of R&B star Brandi, hip-hop legend Chuck D and French electronic musician St Germain, among many others. Most recently, his iconic recording, the 1962 Vee-Jay Records single “Boom Boom,” was inducted into the 2016 GRAMMY® Hall of Fame.

 

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With an intoxicating, genre-blending sound, provocative and uncompromising songs, and the mesmerizing power of singer Jim Morrison’s poetry and presence, The Doors had a transformative impact not only on popular music but on popular culture.

The Doors’ arrival on the rock scene in 1967 marked not only the start of a string of hit singles and albums that would become stone classics, but also of something much bigger – a new and deeper relationship between creators and audience. Refusing to be mere entertainers, the Los Angeles quartet relentlessly challenged, confronted and inspired their fans, leaping headfirst into the heart of darkness while other bands warbled about peace and love. Though they’ve had scores of imitators, there’s never been another band quite like them. And 40 years after their debut album, The Doors’ music and legacy are more influential than ever before.

Morrison’s mystical command of the frontman role may be the iconic heart of The Doors, but the group’s extraordinary power would hardly have been possible without the virtuosic keyboard tapestries of Ray Manzarek, the gritty, expressive fretwork of guitarist Robby Krieger and the supple, dynamically rich grooves of drummer John Densmore. From baroque art-rock to jazz-infused pop to gutbucket blues, the band’s instrumental triad could navigate any musical territory with aplomb – and all three contributed mightily as songwriters.

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The group was born when Morrison and Manzarek – who’d met at UCLA’s film school – met again, unexpectedly, on the beach in Venice, CA, during the summer of 1965. Though he’d never intended to be a singer, Morrison was invited to join Manzarek’s group Rick and the Ravens on the strength of his poetry. Krieger and Densmore, who’d played together in the band Psychedelic Rangers, were recruited soon thereafter; though several bassists auditioned of the new collective, none could furnish the bottom end as effectively as Manzarek’s left hand. Taking their name from Aldous Huxley’s psychotropic monograph The Doors of Perception, the band signed to Elektra Records following a now-legendary gig at the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip.

Their eponymous first album, released in January 1967, kicked off with “Break on Through (to the Other Side)” and also featured the chart smash “Light My Fire”, the scorching “Back Door Man” and the visionary masterpiece “The End”. The Doors arrived fully formed, capable of rocking the pop charts and the avant-garde with one staggering disc. Before ’67 was over, they’d issued the ambitious follow-up Strange Days, with such gems as “Love Me Two Times”, “People Are Strange” and “When the Music’s Over”.

Next came 1968′s Waiting for the Sun, boasting “Hello, I Love You”, “Love Street” and “Five to One”. Over the next few years they minded over new territory on such albums as 1969′s The Soft Parade (featuring “Touch Me” and “Tell All the People”), 1970′s Morrison Hotel (which includes “Roadhouse Blues”, “Peace Frog” and “Queen of the Highway”) and 1971′s L.A. Woman (boasting “Rider’s on the Storm”, “Love Her Madly” and the title track).

They released six studio albums in all, as well as a live album and a compilation, before Morrison’s death in 1971. their electrifying achievements in the studio and onstage were unmatched in the annals of rock; and though Morrison’s death meant the end of an era, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore collaborated on two more original Doors albums, Other Voices and Full Circle, and a set of tracks they composed to accompany Morrison’s 1969 recording of his poetry, released in 1978 as An American Prayer. They also pursued individual music projects, books, theatrical productions and other enterprises – and remain restlessly creative to this day.

In the decades since the Doors’ heyday, the foursome has loomed ever larger in the pantheon of rock – and they remain a touchstone of insurrectionary culture for writers, activists, visual artists and other creative communities. Their songs, featured in an ever-increasing number of films, TV shows, video games and remixes, always sound uncannily contemporary. No matter how the musical and cultural tides turn, The Doors will always be ready to help a new wave of listeners break on through to the other side.

 

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A Guide to the Labyrinth

The Collected Works of Jim Morrison See the full Genesis site and preorder here. ‘Real poetry doesn’t say anything, it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can......

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