Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century

Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century

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by Charles Shaar Murray
     
 

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Acclaimed writer Charles Shaar Murray's Boogie Man is the authorized and authoritative biography of an extraordinary musician. Murray was given unparalleled access to Hooker, and he lets the man from Clarksdale, Mississippi, tell his own story. "Everything you read on album covers is not true, and every album reads different," he told Murray. Murray helps Hooker

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Overview

Acclaimed writer Charles Shaar Murray's Boogie Man is the authorized and authoritative biography of an extraordinary musician. Murray was given unparalleled access to Hooker, and he lets the man from Clarksdale, Mississippi, tell his own story. "Everything you read on album covers is not true, and every album reads different," he told Murray. Murray helps Hooker set the record straight, disentangling the myths and legends from truths so rock-ribbed that we understand, as if for the first time, why they have provided the source for a lifetime of unforgettable sound.

Murray weaves together Hooker's life and music to reveal their indissoluble bonds. Yet Boogie Man is far more than merely an accomplished and brilliant biography of one man; it gives an account of an entire art form. Grounded in a time and place in American culture, the blues are universal, and in the hands of the greatest practitioners its power resides in the miracle of using despair to transcend it. "The preacher's mantle," Murray tells us, "passes to the bluesman." This bluesman traveled a hard road out of the American South, from obscurity to adulation and back-and back again. John Lee Hooker has seen it all and sung it all, and his music is both a living legacy and an American treasure. Here is the book that does him and his music full justice.

Editorial Reviews

barnesandNoble.com
Our Review John Lee Hooker is the last of the great generation of postwar blues musicians; indeed, to not a few minds, he may just be the greatest bluesman of them all. In Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century, Charles Shaar Murray tells the life story of this remarkable musician with enthusiasm and erudition. Drawing on interviews with family members, associates, and Hooker himself, Murray offers a rounded and colorful portrait.

Born a preacher's son near Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917, John Lee sets out early on a course very different from the one his father, who allowed only church music in the house, would have preferred. When his parents separate, John Lee elects to live with his mother and her second husband, Will Moore, a part-time bluesman. Moore gives John his first guitar and encourages his playing; indeed, Hooker has always maintained Will Moore "gave him his sound" -- that the primal boogie of "Boogie Chillun" and all that John Lee would make of it over the next 50 years was "his tune, his beat."

Hooker leaves home at 15, first for Memphis, then Cincinnati, before finally settling in Detroit. He marries, works hardscrabble day jobs, and gigs furiously at clubs and house parties, coming easily to rule the Detroit blues roost.

In 1948, he makes his first recordings for a cagey, cynical, and brilliant producer named Bernard Besman, who discovers the perfect way of recording Hooker: placing a wooden pallet under his stomping foot and miking it big, while setting Hooker's implacable, brooding vocals amid layers of spooky echo. From their first session together comes "Boogie Chillun," an enormous R&B hit and instantly Hooker's signature tune for life.

Hooker is off and running, though the next few decades bring extreme highs and lows in both his career and his personal life. Hooker finally experiences perhaps the happiest ending of any major blues musician's life story, though, when a new manager gets his recording career back on track. The Healer, a 1989 album of duets with younger disciples, racks up impressive sales and spawns a series of well-received sequels -- all without compromising the basic boogie essence he learned from Will Moore back in the Delta.

As Murray portrays him, John Lee Hooker is today a thoughtful, contented man who basks in the admiration of virtually everyone, it seems, who has worked with him, played the blues after him, or simply responded as a listener to the life-affirming power of his music. Though Murray has given us a worthy account of his life, Hooker himself may have given us his own best, if Zenlike, epitaph: "When I die, they'll bury the blues with me. But the blues will never die."

--Edward Hutchinson

Library Journal
Murray (Crosstown Traffic) has written a sprightly and informative authorized biography of blues legend Hooker. Liberally sampling from his interviews with Hooker, other blues artists, family, and friends, the author traces the bluesman's childhood, migration to Detroit, first successes with "Boogie Chillen" and "I'm in the Mood," and re-emergence during the early 1960s folk boom. Hooker's growing popularity during the British and later American electric blues-rock craze, his travels on the grueling blues circuit from 1974 to 1988, and his commercial success with 1989's The Healer are recounted in detail. In addition, Murray provides a balanced, intimate look at Hooker's personal relationships and establishes a social context for his life, describing the segregated South of Hooker's youth, the blues scene in postwar Chicago, Motown, and the 1967 Detroit riots. Though it doesn't unearth new material, this work is thoroughly researched and entertaining. Highly recommended to musical fans and scholars alike.--Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

“(A) meticulously researched portrait...Hooker comes to life as a petulant, triumphant figure: complex and sometimes just unknowable, but as a genius for whom blues is as vital as a heartbeat.” —Rolling Stone

“Surely the most exhaustive biography of any bluesman.” —Chicago Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781466852365
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
280,043
File size:
722 KB

Meet the Author

Charles Shaar Murray won the Ralph J. Gleason Award for Crosstown Traffic, his critically acclaimed study of Jimi Hendrix. Q Magazine dubbed him the "rock writers' rock writer" and "the consummate rock critic." He lives in England.


Charles Shaar Murray’s book Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Postwar Rock ’n’ Roll Revolution was called by Entertainment Weekly “the best book on Hendrix,” and rode their A-list for over two months before winning the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. He lives in England.

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