Legendary Bluesman John Lee Hooker Dead At 83

Grammy-winning singer/guitarist passed away in his sleep at home in Northern California.

Blues legend John Lee Hooker, whose unique boogie style mesmerized fans for six decades and influenced countless blues and rock musicians, died on Thursday in his home near San Francisco. He was 83.

The Grammy-winning singer/guitarist passed away peacefully in his sleep, according to his agent, Mike Kappus.

Hooker, known for his hypnotic, one-chord grooves and mournful, gravelly vocals, gave his final performance on Saturday night in Santa Rosa, California.

"He was a unique individual, one of the last of the original Mississippi Delta bluesmen, and he impacted rock and roll more than most people will ever know," said Kappus, who also managed Hooker for 25 years. "He loved his fans and wanted to keep playing until the end, and he did exactly that."

Hooker's friend and colleague, veteran blues guitarist Buddy Guy, learned of his death just before he went onstage in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Thursday night.

"The blues world suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of John Lee," Guy said through his manager, Glen Phillips. "In the past weeks I have told many journalists that there weren't many of us left. We had a lot of fun together, and he leaves me with many great memories. He will be sorely missed."

Musicians who have cited Hooker as an influence or have covered his songs include the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Ben Harper, PJ Harvey, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt and Nick Cave.

"For musicians and common people — all of us feel enormous gratitude, respect, admiration and love for his spirit," Santana, who appeared on Hooker's The Healer (1989) and Chill Out (1995), said in a statement on Thursday. "When I was a child, he was the first circus I wanted to run away with. ... Working with him ... is something that I will deeply treasure. On behalf of [Chester Thompson], everyone in my band and myself, we say to you, John, 'Boogie in the Light.'"

Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on August 22, 1917, to a large Baptist family of sharecroppers. He began singing spiritual music at a young age, but he credited his stepfather with fueling his love for the blues.

After moving to Memphis and then to Cincinnati, Hooker eventually wound up in Detroit. In the years following World War II, he built a reputation in the Motor City's blues scene, recording his first single, "Boogie Chillen," in 1948. The song featured the autobiographical lyrics "One night I was layin' down/ ... I heard Papa tell Mama/ Let that boy boogie-woogie/ It's in him/ And it got to come out."

"The first song I ever learned on the guitar was 'Boogie Chillen'" Guy said. "I still play it today, as I will tonight and I always will."

"Chillen" kicked open the door for a string of hits, including "Rock House Boogie," "Crawling King Snake" and "I'm in the Mood."

Frustrated with recording contracts, Hooker spent the early '50s recording for multiple labels under different names, including Texas Slim, John Lee Booker, John Lee Cocker, Delta John, Birmingham Sam and Johnny Williams. He went back to making music under his own name in 1955 when he signed with Vee-Jay Records. His popularity continued to grow over the next decade, thanks to such tunes as "Big Legs, Tight Skirt."

In 1970, he and blues-rock band Canned Heat released the hit album Hooker n' Heat. In 1980, he had a cameo in "The Blues Brothers" movie, playing a street musician.

The Healer garnered him his first Grammy for the duet with Raitt on "I'm in the Mood," and Hooker was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Though his health began to slow him down, he continued to record music and put on electrifying live performances. Don't Look Back (1997) nabbed him the Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy, while its title track, a collaboration with Morrison, won the Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals trophy.

Early last year, Hooker cancelled a tour after he was diagnosed with a vascular condition affecting the veins serving his stomach and kidneys. Still, he managed to deliver an hour-long set at his own Boom Boom Room club in San Francisco that April (see "Growling, Prowling John Lee Hooker Returns In Top Form").

"He was loved dearly, and we will all miss him greatly," read a statement from his family. "We thank everyone for their kind wishes and condolences."

Funeral and memorial arrangements have not been announced.