Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin' Hopkins (Brad and Michele Moore Roots Music)

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9780292745155: Mojo Hand: The Life and Music of Lightnin' Hopkins (Brad and Michele Moore Roots Music)

In a career that took him from the cotton fields of East Texas to the concert stage at Carnegie Hall and beyond, Lightnin’ Hopkins became one of America’s greatest bluesmen, renowned for songs whose topics effortlessly ranged from his African American roots to space exploration, the Vietnam War, and lesbianism, performed in a unique, eccentric, and spontaneous style of guitar playing that inspired a whole generation of rock guitarists. Hopkins’s music directly and indirectly influenced an amazing range of artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan, as well as bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and ZZ Top, with whom Hopkins performed.

Mojo Hand follows Lightin’ Hopkins’s life and music from the acoustic country blues that he began performing in childhood, through the rise of 1950s rock ’n’ roll, which nearly derailed his career, to his reinvention and international success as a pioneer of electric folk blues from the 1960s to the 1980s. The authors draw on 130 vivid oral histories, as well as extensive archival and secondary sources, to provide the fullest account available of the development of Hopkins’s music; his idiosyncratic business practices, such as shunning professional bookers, managers, and publicists; and his durable and indelible influence on modern roots, blues, rock ’n’ roll, singer-songwriter, and folk music. Mojo Hand celebrates the spirit and style, intelligence and wit, and confounding musical mystique of a bluesman who shaped modern American music like no one else.

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About the Author:

The late Timothy J. O’Brien held a Ph.D. in history from the University of Houston, where he studied African American history, social movements, and labor history. His music journalism appeared in Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Left of the Dial.

David Ensminger is a writer, drummer, college instructor, folklorist, and digital archivist of punk and vernacular culture. He publishes a monthly column on PopMatters.com. His previous books are Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons and Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generations.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins was determined to escape the toil and misery of sharecropping in Jim Crow–era East Texas, and his innate gift for music was the ticket out. He started young, quickly developing his complex, signature style of blues guitar. His ability to play rhythm and lead simultaneously, “unhitched intensity and speed,” and impishly witty lyrics made him “one of the most important bluesmen of the twentieth century,” while his refusal to trust record-industry professionals made for a roller-coaster career. Music journalist O’Brien assiduously combed archives public and private and conducted 130 interviews, then Ensminger stepped in to help after O’Brien became ill with the cancer that took his life. The result is a comprehensively detailed and provocative biography brimming with vivid oral history, in which Hopkins comes into focus as a wry, tough, and prickly man, always sharply dressed and happiest playing in small clubs in his Houston neighborhood, gambling, or fishing, even though he thrilled audiences at Carnegie Hall and around the world. Extensive, anecdotal coverage of gigs and recording sessions is balanced with incisive analysis of racial inequities in American society and the music business, Hopkins’ tremendous influence on white rock musicians, and how his music built “bridges between cultures and people, politics and poetry, humor and humanism.” --Donna Seaman

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