Blues Music Birthdays: January 14th – 20th

This week’s blues birthdays feature musicians Earl Hooker, Ronnie Van Zant, Barbara Lynn, Luther Dickinson, Lead Belly and Queen of psychedelic soul Janis Joplin!

 

Earl Hooker: 1/15/1929

Mentored by none other than Robert Nighthawk, this slide guitarist was highly regarded among the top blues musicians of his day and is still held in high regards. In addition to his mastery of the guitar, he was known for his intense showmanship, use of double-neck guitars, and experimentation with amplification, delay, and the wah-wah pedal. His career saw him work with such legends as Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Ike Turner, and Sonny Boy Williamson II.

 

Ronnie Van Zant: 1/15/1948

A truly tragic figure in rock history, this singer-songwriter was one of the founding members of the very popular Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd. Second perhaps only to the genre’s founding Brothers, Skynyrd was paramount in popularizing Southern rock with its brew of blues, boogie, country, and hard rock. All this was achieved with Van Zant not only as the frontman, but the primary lyricist as well. He co-wrote the majority of the groups original material, including the major hits “Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama”. After a tragic plane crash claimed his life along with two other band members in 1977, the bustling success of Lynyrd Skynyrd came to a screeching halt.

 

Barbara Lynn Ozen: 1/16/1942

A blues and rhythm & blues vocalist, lyricist, and guitarist who was an unusual musician at the start of her career. Quite a ways from the norm of the early ’60s for female artists, she both penned much of and performed the lead instrument for her own material. After retiring from the music in the ’70s, she returned to performing in the late ’80s and began to record again for the first time in twenty years in 1994. Her best-known song remains her 1962 R&B Chart-topping hit “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”, which was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Freddy Fender.

 

Luther Dickinson: 1/18/1973

Founding member, lead guitarist, and singer of the award-winning Southern rock and blues group The North Mississippi Allstars. He has become a major figure in the world of contemporary blues-rock, as well as the jam scene. He has also worked with such artists as John Hiatt, Robert Randolph, John Medeski, R.L. Burnside, and for three years was a lead guitarist for The Black Crowes.

 

Janis Joplin: 1/19/1943

Queen of psychedelic soul Janis Joplin has a legendary voice that is hauntingly unforgettable. She sang the blues with smoky, scratchy, deep and emotional, tear your heart out vocals scattered with animalistic howls that captivated her audiences. She may be known for mostly cover versions, but Joplin absolutely made them her very own. Some of her best known songs include “Me and Bobby McGhee”, “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, “Cry Baby”, “Kozmic Blues”, and “Piece of My Heart”. Her sound revolutionized rock and roll and her image has become an iconic symbol of the magical 60’s. Her distinctive vocals, eccentric persona, and electric stage presence earned her a spot as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company and later her solo work with the hand-picked backing bands The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. Janis became a cosmic force of her own, gaining a mass fan base with her performances at the iconic Monterey Pop and Woodstock music festivals. Her star power still burns brightly as one of the most widely known female artists of her era and one of the top-selling musicians of all-time with over 15 million albums sold.

 

Huddie Ledbetter AKA Lead Belly: 1/20/1889
As much a folk musician as a bluesman, this multi-instrumentalist traveled throughout the United States with his iconic twelve-string guitar and expertly performed music in the genres of folk, gospel, and a number of blues styles (namely country and Delta). Though he often found himself incarcerated, he spent his time as a prisoner learning songs that he would perform throughout the rest of his life; on more than one occasion he even used his music as a means of early release. “Goodnight Irene”, “Black Betty”, and “In the Pines” (aka “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”) are just a few examples of his recordings that have gone on to influence artists from Peter Seeger and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Nirvana and Old Crow Medicine Show.

 

Devon Ebersold for Keeping the Blues Alive

Help us with our mission of Keeping the Blues Alive in schools! To learn more or donate to Keeping The Blues Alive, visit our website at http://keepingthebluesalive.org/

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