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'My journey to hell' by John Lee Hooker Junior
JOHN Lee Hooker Junior was crouched on his knees, the barrel of a gun pressed hard against his temple and shaking with fear he pleaded for his life.
“The guy cocked the trigger back slowly and I said to him, ‘Why would I want to die for money?
“I have no money for you.’ “He looked me straight in the eye, smashed me over the head and pistol whipped me.
“Do you know what I did next?
“I crawled over the road on my hands and knees to get my next drugs fix.
“I had the money — it was in my back pocket — and my life had become an insane existence of addiction and horrible violence.
“I believe in the Devil — and I was at the gates of hell 20 years ago.”
When John Lee Hooker Jr named his album All Odds Against Me it was because for so many years they had been.
The son of the late blues legend John Lee Hooker, his journey from San Quentin Prison to Hollywood’s red carpet has been an incredible voyage few will ever be able to experience.
And through music he has battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, prison and near-death experiences.
“I’ve been stabbed, locked up in 11 different prisons, half drowned, overdosed, thrown out of cars and shot in two different states.
“My last time in prison, they slung me in the hole because I refused to do anything.
“When I came out they lined me up with the rest of the prisoners, bawling in my face.
“I felt like a slave prisoner and I couldn’t take that hell anymore.
“I’d reached the bottom of the pit.
“I looked up at the sky and shouted, ‘God, help me to get out of this place’. I never wanted to go back and I never did.”
Hooker, 61, says he is steadily honing his own pathway of recognition through a story of salvation, redemption and success over the last decade.
“I’ve had redemption in two ways: first through kicking alcohol and drugs and spiritually because my God has rescued me from the dark, never-ending tunnel that was my life.
“Music has helped me cope. It has allowed me to focus on my life as an artist.
“It gives me a sense of peace, it motivates and challenges me and when I called on God he helped me.
“I make my music to heal pain, express joys and bond us all together.
“I was so low to the ground, but to be able to make people happy through my music makes me feel alive again.
“Maybe I am proof that demons can be defeated because I’m free of the darkness of drugs and alcohol.”
The blues was always in his life. Having performed on Detroit’s WJBK radio at the tender age of eight, he toured with his father throughout his teens, exposed to blues greats such as Jimmie Reed, Washboard Willie, and Boogie Woogie Red.
“It was wild at times and it was incredible to be around.
“And there’s no difficulty in me being who I am.
“I don’t go into a laboratory and stand in front of a mirror trying to create something out of the shadow of my dad — I’m just who I am. Dad was a lovely, kind man.
“Next month is probably the last time I will sing the blues because my musical message is going to change.
“Instead, I’ll be concentrating mainly on gospel, praising the man up top who kept me alive.”
- John Lee Hooker Junior and his all American band, Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, June 24. Details from 001200 421599.
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