Tag Archives: Lightnin Hopkins

March 15: The Legend Lightnin Hopkins was born in 1912


Sam John Hopkins (March 15, 1912 – January 30, 1982), better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, was an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and occasional pianist, fromHouston, Texas. Rolling Stone magazine included Hopkins at number 71 on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

Musicologist Robert “Mack” McCormick opined that Hopkins “is the embodiment of the jazz-and-poetry spirit, representing its ancient form in the single creator whose words and music are one act”

I came to Lightnin’ Hopkins through Townes Van Zandt and Justin Townes Earle (I guess he discovered him through Townes as well…). I was expecting something ancient, something old, but Hopkins sounds modern and his guitar playing is just out of this world!

Sometimes music hit you so hard you simply do not know what happened, Justin Townes Earle did just that when he covered the relatively unknown song, hell, he  ripped through a rousing version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ My starter won’t start (I been burnin bad gasoline). And suddenly I understood what/why Hopkins was held in as high a regard as he does! It was pure magic! (see own post)

Lightnin’ Hopkins – Baby Please Don’t go:

Continue reading March 15: The Legend Lightnin Hopkins was born in 1912

Documentary: The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins


“He was like an ancient oracle in his uncanny ability to improvise rhyming blues songs about a person or situation that revealed a truth that was perfect in its simplicity, yet infinitely complex in its layers of meaning.”
Les Blanks on Lightnin’ Hopkins 

This little film is a poem, a celebration of art and musicianship. It feels otherworldly, almost magic in it’s realism. For me it is one of the very few films that manage to capture the essence of music. You will know a lot more about “the blues” after seeing it, but it may take some time to sink in. One day you’ll sit in your car on your way home from work and it will dawn on you, and you’ll want to watch it again. I did, and I’ve seen it many times. The great Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins is captured brilliantly in this deeply moving “story”.

This little film is a music poem.

I came to Hopkins through Townes Van Zandt. I read several interviews where he talked about his great admiration for Lightnin’ Hopkins. This has been my way to the blues, through country and folk. Through Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt.

Les Blank reveals Lightnin’s inspiration, and features a lot of classic blues. Scenes include an outdoor barbecue, a rodeo and a visit to Hopkins’s boyhood town of Centerville, Texas. I believe this powerful portrait is among Blank’s special masterworks.

Made by Les Blank and Skip Gerson, probably in 1968 (…or 1969 or 1970, there are sources on all these years).



The Blues accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins:

You make your bed hard, baby,
and calls it ease.
The blues is just a funny feelin’,
yet some folks calls it a mighty bad disease.

“This line was composed late one night while I was filming what started out to be an ordinary interview. I had asked him to tell me what the blues meant to him. He picked up his guitar and started to sing about a woman named Mary who had left him. Earlier that evening his wife had left him after a nasty argument that caused her cousin to attempt to shoot Lightnin’.

While the song was being sung, the cousin was lurking outside the apartment door with a loaded pistol. Lightnin’ also had a large loaded gun stuck down the front of his pants. Hardly a situation in which to delve into an academic and linear exploration of the nature of truth and the blues, but I came away feeling I knew a lot more about it than before, but I couldn’t exactly put it in words.”

– Les Blanks (notes on the film)

– Hallgeir

Great versions of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (videos)


Along with “Matchbox”, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is Blind Lemon Jefferson’s best known song. This is a day to remember & listen to BLJ, but also to his songs interpreted by others.


“See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”
Single by Blind Lemon Jefferson
B-side “Where Shall I Be”
Released 1927
Format 10″ 78 rpm record
Recorded October 1927
Genre Blues
Length 2:54
Label Paramount (Cat. no. 12585)
Writer(s) Blind Lemon Jefferson


Here are BLJ & some fine versions of by other artists.

Blind Lemon Jefferson:

Bob Dylan – from his debut album:

Continue reading Great versions of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” (videos)

Videos of the day – Justin Townes Earle plays Lightnin Hopkins

justin townes earle hopkins-1

When we saw Justin Townes Earle last year he ripped through a rousing version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ My starter won’t start (I been burnin bad gasoline). I have looked at a lot of Justin’s performances to find one that is equally good, there isn’t one… That said, there are a lot of very good ones.

Since it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins’ birthday today we give you two of them, quite different but very entertaining and very good. Justin Townes Earle is a formidable player and singer!

Happy birthday to legend, Lightnin’ Hopkins rest in peace in blues heaven!

New Jersey 2011 (..and closest to the Bergen version):

Lightnin Hopkins

Detroit 2010 (very different and very good):

Here’s Lightning Hopkins’ great original (audio only):

Two fantastic singers/songwriters and performers!

– Hallgeir

Today: Ry Cooder is 66


Ryland Peter “Ry” Cooder (born March 15, 1947) is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries. His albums are all quite different from each other but at the same time they are distinctly Ry Cooder in their sound.

Jesus on the mainline:

He was ranked eighth on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. He is also a very good composer and a competent vocalist but this is often overshadowed by his tremendous abilities on the guitar.    

Great live version of “Vigilante Man”:

Her is my top 20 Ry Cooder songs (Spotify link):

Other Mar-15:
Continue reading Today: Ry Cooder is 66