It’s the month of the Blues. And it’s a time to revisit those musicians who brought the pain, sadness, joy and cheer associated with this genre of music. Divya Naik spoke to John Lee Hooker Jr who took on his father’s legacy and found his own style, gave the streets of Detroit a musical history and is today one of the most courageous musicians who has a story to tell.
We have heard that your style of playing is called as the ‘Talking Blues’. Could you tell us more about the same?
Talking blues, is a monolog style I picked up from my dad, “(house rent boogie)”. As a child, I told many tall stories, was called ‘a big story teller’ by everyone around. Today, I have translated the lying story telling into an art; I talk the blues as a monolog, Re: “Dear John”.
The blues are usually known to be associated with pain, sadness and grief – do you agree with this view?
Yes I do, and it is true. However, it can be translated into a joyful blues, deriving from a sad episode to laughter and dance.
Your father was one of the greatest musicians in the history of the blues… could you recollect some memories of how he shared his music with you and influenced you?
As a child, I was always awakened in my crib by the music in the basement of our small home, then as a small kid my dad sang me to sleep. I was a spoiled kid and we were very close. I used to also sing to him, and of course that affected me greatly.
Detroit has been a great influence on you, musically… how so? The streets, the sub culture… how did it get integrated into your music?
As a kid, my hero also was Stevie Wonder whom I met when we were both kids in Detroit. At home, it was the blues, riding in cars out was the Motown sound, at parties it James Brown, all these different sounds had a profound effect on my music writing today.
Apparently, it is said that your music has redeemed you…?
Because it was very passionate, there was joy, but there was anger. I was as a bull finally released from its pen to prove to the world I am only who I am and nobody else.
With ‘All odds against me,’ your career took off to a different level altogether… you even launched your own record label?
Yes, Steppin Stone Records, because God allowed music to become my friend.
You distinguish yourself as a contemporary ‘Bluesman’ – could you elaborate on this?
Bluesman was handed to me from the world, my cartoon character is a super hero and that is his name, and I sing the blues, that’s me.
Blues has a niche audience though the music is drawn from raw human emotion – what are your comments on this?
It is very true, they draw from raw emotions of crying, laughing, and stressful thinking, that causes a moan, a moaning blues, even though there’s no music.
‘All hooked up’ is set to release in March this year – what diverse shades can we expect?
Funk, jazz, dirty blues, and on the DVD, Bluesman, singing, ‘It’s a shame’ this will be a double disc featuring, Kenny Neal, and Lucky Peterson, and a host of great musicians. That’s why it’s called, All Hooked Up.
Have you heard any blues musicians from India? What do you think of them?
No, but I look forward to meeting some, and hopefully we can incorporate our two styles together, and someday record, ‘Live in Mumbai’.