Detroit's finest blues musician turns one hundred years old this year, in August. Sure, he was born in Mississippi. But John Lee Hooker became a musician in Detroit, after moving here to work for Ford in the 1940s like so many other thousands of black men from Mississippi. And it is here between 1948 and 1955 that this genius of sharp modern boogie cut all of his most important early records (including multiple titles under a variety of pseudonyms to get around record label contracts).
When we initially wondered this aloud the other month, we hadn't heard whether or not there is much planned. And while it remains unknown as to whether the architects of New Detroit are going to dedicate a stretch of the Quicken Loans monorail to the artist, or throw up a little statue of him, or maybe name a really expensive cocktail bar after one of his songs.
We have just gotten word of a serious happening worth attending. The Detroit Blues Society will host the San Francisco-based rock 'n' roll band Canned Heat for a special, John Lee Hooker 100th Birthday Celebration at the Tangent Gallery/ Hastings Street Ballroom on Sunday, Aug. 20. This is legit; Canned Heat collaborated with Hooker for the excellentHooker 'N Heat double LP in 1971.
But how to rejoice? How to celebrate? Before you go making up your own neo bluegrass trip-hop remix of the guys' music yourself, perhaps just sit down and have a listen. Drink a tall glass of something. This person cut a lot of records in his career; this might take a minute. I'm having a latte, but you might opt for something else.