Blue Monday

Maybe it’s because an R&B band named after one of his signature songs, The Kingsnakes, played at my wedding reception, but I’ve always been particularly fond of the music of John Lee Hooker. His style, which was frequently described as skeletal or primitive, was actually very fluid and idiosyncratic, which presented a problem for backup musicians trying to play standard-issue blues riffs. Check out the puzzled looks Hooker gives his players during this 1980 rendition of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”:

One of the many benefits of the American Folk Blues Festival tours of the 1960s was that they were filmed by European television crews, thereby giving us a chance to see bluesmen like Hooker in their prime. (It also gave us the chance to see other older performers, like Sonny Boy Williamson, who had never been filmed at all.) This is a performance of Hooker’s “Hobo Blues” from the 1965 tour:

Here’s the man playing “Boom Boom,” another of his standards, a year later:

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One thought on “Blue Monday

  1. Seth A says:

    I’ve had the distinct privilege of seeing John Lee Hooker perform live twice at Antone’s (a blues club in Austin). Probably late 80s, early 90s, something like that. The first time, half his set was solo, accompanied with electric and heavily distorted guitar, without meter. Such a charismatic presence, even at that late stage of his life.

    I’d love to have witnessed his Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison) performance, for instance.

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