Remembering John Lee and Chet

Hi Record Boy...

Packing some tunes to take on vacation a few weeks ago, I was trying to pick one of my several John Lee Hooker CDs and finally decided to take two, an early greatest hits disc and "Chill Out" (in addition to "Mr. Lucky" on tape). And for the first time in many years, I tucked away "Neck & Neck," the Chet Atkins-Mark Knopfler guitar collaboration. The next morning, I awoke to hear the end of an interview with John Lee on NPR and to the news that he had died. A few days later, in the woods of Canada and only one day after playing "Neck & Neck," the news about Chet Atkins' death came.

Yes, they both had long and fruitful lives, and it was their time. At their ages, it was not a surprise or shock to hear of their passing, but it was still a tremendously sad loss for the music world. And how eerie to have just had some of their work in my hands, perhaps even at the very time of their deaths. (Remind me not to play any BB King for awhile.) I never saw Chet Atkins in person, but I did see John Lee several times. At the former RiverBlues festival in Philadelphia, he was escorted past where I was standing to be transported away in a boat after performing. I was shouting "We love you"  and managed to get a nice photo, even as people around me snickered. (So what were THEY doing at a blues concert if they didn't understand such devotion?) But one of the best things about being an artist is that you live on in your work and in the hearts & minds of the faithful, and so I celebrate their lives instead of mourning their passing.

Paula Goff