Following in your dad’s footsteps when it comes to career choices is a noble, if not respectable notion. Especially if your dad has made his living doing something cool, like playing music for his entire life, becoming a cultural icon and a recognizable face, name and voice when it comes to your art.
Ok, so it hasn’t worked out so well for Julian Lennon. I guess “Vallotte” was a noble effort, but matching and exceeding the accomplishments of your Beatle Dad is all but impossible. Same with Bob Dylan’s son, Steve Earle’s son and countless other offspring of musicians who have set the bar pretty high for anyone to follow.
John Lee Hooker’s son, John Junior, may not reach the heights his dad did, but the son of the legendary bluesman is seeing some musical success in his own right. His early years were plagued with a handful of drug-related ins and outs with the law, resulting in some arrests, some jail time and some kneeling down with the Good Book looking for forgiveness. But since 2004, John Lee Hooker Jr. has released six albums, been nominated for two Grammys and toured internationally.
Hooker will celebrate his latest release “All Hooked Up” on Sunday with a CD release party at the Abbey Theatre. He’s been an on again, off again performer in town, playing previous shows at the Abbey, along with shows at the now defunct Scoot ’n Blues.
“All Hooked Up” is not a pure blues album, but rather a collection of jazz, straight-ahead funk and pop, all with a hint of blues influence. It’s a result of Hooker not only being influenced by his father, but also by Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Etta James, James Brown, Prince, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Michael Jackson and loads of other musicians Hooker rattles off like items on a grocery list.
“It reaches all audiences. We got some for young, some for old with all kinds of genres. Jazz, funk and hip-hop-style funky beats. We’re excited about it,” Hooker said last week from his home in California. “I came from a multigenre environment. You hear all types of influences from musicians. But everything is original.”
Choosing his dad’s path has always been what he wanted to do. The Motor City native absorbed the rich musical culture of 1950s-era Detroit, resulting in a love for all kinds of music and the want to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I was always leaning toward becoming a musician because of the town I grew up in,” Hooker said. “I saw how (my dad) made people happy and how he treated everyone the same, no matter what creed, color, sexuality or religion. He treated everyone fair, and he made people happy. That’s what I always wanted to do. To make people happy, and to make them dance. What a great job to make that happen. It’s music.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.