John Lee Hooker Gets the Box-Set Treatment

Music critic Tom Terrell reviews the boxed set by John Lee Hooker, titled Hooker. Terrell says the definitive collection shows us why every major guitar player in rock has drawn inspiration from Hooker.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

It's hard to overstate the importance of blues man John Lee Hooker. He has inspired and influenced just about every rock guitarist in the last 40 years. Now, Tom Terrell has a review of a new retrospective box set titled simply "Hooker."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOM TERRELL: When I flash on John Lee Hooker, I see a very cool black man of an indeterminate age, sporting a white guitar, white Homburg, white three-piece suit and very black shades, shaking the house on down, with a steamy chunk of "Boogie Chillun."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "BOOGIE CHILLUN")

JOHN LEE HOOKER: (Singing) Well my mama she didn't 'low me, just to stay out all night long, oh Lord -

TERRELL: Born in 1917 to Mississippi sharecroppers, John Lee Hooker paid his dues playing guitar on Memphis street corners, singing gospel with the Fairfield Four and rocking electric rhythm and blues at Detroit rent parties.

Out of that came the five-decades-worth of rock 101, talking blues boogies songs compiled in the new "Hooker" box set. "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" alone has profoundly influenced every British guitar hero that's ever rocked the 12-bar blues shuffle the right way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "ONE BOURBON, ONE SCOTCH, ONE BEER")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE BOURBON, ONE SCOTCH, ONE BEER")

LEE HOOKER: (Singing) One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer. One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer. Hey mister bartender come here. I want another drink and I want it now. My baby she gone, she been gone two night. I ain't seen my baby since night before last. One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer.

TERRELL: With just three primal guitar chords, feet stomping hard beats and a quavering baritone moan, John Lee Hooker invented a new black pop sound that was of the blues, yet way beyond blues. A sound that would anoint him muse for Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and generations of hard rockers to come.

Check out "The Healer," his 1989 collaboration with Carlos Santana.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "THE HEALER")

TERRELL: It's classic, slow-burning Santana mambo rock, until the Hook steps to the mic a minute and a half in and rumbles, blues is the healer, all over the world. Bam. Game over.

LEE HOOKER: (Singing) It healed me. It can heal you. The blues can heal you early one morning. It can heal you. The blues can heal you. Yeah, yeah.

TERRELL: John Lee Hooker passed away five years ago. He may not have been the best blues singer, guitar player or songwriter, but as the "Hooker" box set affirms track after track, he was the greatest blues man of them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOOM BOOM")

LEE HOOKER: (Singing) Boom, boom, boom, boom. I'm gonna shoot you right down -

SIEGEL: The boxed set of John Lee Hooker's music is called "Hooker." Our reviewer is Tom Terrell.

LEE HOOKER: (Singing) - just come into my house. Boom, boom, boom, boom. A- haw, haw, haw, haw. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm. Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm. I love to see you strut up and down the floor. When you talking to me - that baby talk. I like it like that. Woah, yeah.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.