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Music Star Zakiya Hooker: Why my dad, John Lee Hooker, is my greatest source of inspiration

My dad is my biggest inspiration. My father was an illiterate son of a sharecropper. He worked in the fields and never attended enough school to learn to read or write. He left home at fourteen, a child travelling all by himself in a world filled with danger and racism. He knew he only wanted […]

My dad is my biggest inspiration. My father was an illiterate son of a sharecropper. He worked in the fields and never attended enough school to learn to read or write. He left home at fourteen, a child travelling all by himself in a world filled with danger and racism. He knew he only wanted to do his music and if it meant running away, so be it. He never strayed from his dream. In him I learned to never give up my dream. Regardless of the naysayers, haters and the folks who just don’t understand your passion. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.


As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Zakiya Hooker.

Zakiya Hooker (Vera Hooker) was born 1948 in Detroit Michigan to John Lee Hooker and Maude Ella Mathis. Zakiya was a single mother of three boys when she left Detroit, and a very bad marriage, in 1972 and moved to Oakland, CA. She met her second husband while in California and with his help she began her musical career.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

As a child I was surrounded by music in our home. I was a very gregarious and curious child. My mom would always tell me to stop talking so much. I couldn’t help it. I loved music, dancing and people even at a young age. There was always music at our home because that is what my dad did for a living. When the band members and other musicians came to our house, I just wanted to be around them and hear them play. Looking back, I realize that they were truly unique people.

I knew at an early age that I wanted to be an actress or a singer. I used to dream about being on the stage performing and hearing the cheers of the audience. There is nothing like the thrill of performing, be it for a huge audience or a small intimate setting.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Being in the music world is interesting in itself, but if I had to choose a single incident it would be my first trip out of the USA. We went to London. I was like a child in a candy store. We just wandered around and took in the sights. We then took a boat from Dover England to Pas-de-Calais, France. I had never been on boat that size and I just knew I would get seasick, but I did not. We arrived in France and I fell in love with Paris and the love affair continues to this day.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

This COVID 19 has made folks have to be creative and actually be socially interactive with family again, or whoever you were with at the time of the shutdown. I am now in the process of learning a new program, Premier Pro. I am learning to put movies together. I have had to slow down and move back into the learning mode (even though we never stop learning) to get on top of this program. I have also become very good at doing social media. I have found out that with the release of my new CD and the inability to travel we have to be able to reach our audience in other ways. Thank goodness for social media. I love to make jewelry, but gardening is my real solitude place. I love digging around in the dirt and communing with nature.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

The Hill People in Thailand. It was like another door opening in my journey on this earth. We were invited to a tribal ceremony while we were touring in Thailand. We were on the island of Koh Samui and we were invited to attend the ceremony. The people were beautiful and very open and friendly. The native costumes that they wore for the ceremony were very colorful and unique. As they danced, they invited us up to join them. I did my best to keep up but at the end of it all I just did my personal dance and had fun. That moment was another example of how music can transcend the language barrier and bring us all together.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Khalil Gibran & John Lee Hooker

When I was about fourteen or fifteen years old, I found a book titled “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. I don’t know how I got the book or where it came from. But I read it and I was touched by the things that he said. Even if I could not understand all of it at that young age, I knew that this was something that I should be reading. It just touched me and stayed with me all through my life. I have about four copies of that book and several of his other books.

My dad is my biggest inspiration. My father was an illiterate son of a sharecropper. He worked in the fields and never attended enough school to learn to read or write. He left home at fourteen, a child travelling all by himself in a world filled with danger and racism. He knew he only wanted to do his music and if it meant running away, so be it. He never strayed from his dream. In him I learned to never give up my dream. Regardless of the naysayers, haters and the folks who just don’t understand your passion. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Well my success is not quite that big that it encompasses the world but I am the executive director of my dad’s foundation, www.johnleehookerfoundation.org. We have sponsored several schools in California in starting their Blues in the School program. We worked in partnership with Gibson/Epiphone to provide musical instruments to the students. We have provided guest speakers to go into the schools and play for the children and give some instruction. We have done several fundraisers to keep our monetary flow going so we can donate to other foundations who may need help. We don’t give large sums because our coffers are not that full yet. We try to give what we can. www.johnleehookerfoundation.org.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a movement for our young Black women. It would promote self-esteem and help them love who they are. It took me a long time to just love me for who I am and not the image that is blasted on the TV. Being a Black woman in America is hard. To break out of that mold and realize that I am not beautiful like them I am beautiful like me. I was finally able to embrace my true beauty which starts from the inside out.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Love your music but also find another passion that engages you like the music does. Don’t become one dimensional. As humans we are so much more than just one thing.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM. In 1991 I lost my youngest son in an automobile accident. At that moment I just wanted to lay down and die and follow him. I wanted to stop doing music and pretty much everything else. My husband and my dad didn’t allow me to stop. They gave me my grieving time and then back into the studio we went. I am grateful to them for not letting me just give up and supporting me when I needed it the most.
  2. DON’T CHASE STARDOM, CHASE WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. When I did my first CD, I was looking for that hit that would make me FAMOUS. What a pipe dream. After several CD’s and still not famous (LOL) I was hurt and felt like I was no good at all. But I knew that my music was good, and I was a good artist. I finally came to the realization that I just needed to get back to being happy doing my music.
  3. DON’T GET LOST ALONG THE WAY AND FIND THAT YOU ARE LIVING SOMEONE ELSE’S DREAM. When starting out on this music journey I was automatically put into the Blues genre because of my dad. I tried to follow that path and do the kind of music that people thought I should do. It worked to a degree, but it just did not feel like what I wanted. So, at the tender age of 67 ½ I decided to learn the guitar so I could write the kind of music that was in my mind, heart and soul. My new CD “Legacy” is the real Zakiya. Hopefully people will accept it, and if not, it is their loss.
  4. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE Once people knew I was out there everybody wanted a piece of me. They came out of the woodworks with what they could do for me. Of course, if you choose to buy the bridge, they will sell it to you.
  5. NEVER LOSE FAITH IN YOURSELF. I find that sometimes I began to question if I have the stamina to run the race. I began to doubt myself and my talents and ability to get the job done. My personality only allows me to stay in that space for a short time. I will always have faith in me because God made me, and God don’t make no junk. I have beautiful sons, grandsons and great grandchildren that let me know I am something special.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jeffrey Wright. I was attending the Martin Scorsese “Blues” event at Radio City Music Hall. I was the very small fish at the show, and I was only allowed to do a short speaking piece. I spoke of growing up with my dad and dancing with a child’ innocence as he and his band practiced on our front porch. The entire neighborhood would come to listen. I talked about his sadness at being taken advantage of and the resurgence of his career. I was mesmerized by all the stars in the audience.

After the show I was standing in the back and this man walked up to me and introduced himself. I was stunned, I knew exactly who he was. He was the kindest most humble man to be a star and me a non-star. He almost seemed to have a glow that radiated when he walked up to me. He took the time to spend just a moment to make me feel like someone special that night. Thank you, Jeffrey.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.zakiyahooker.com

www.instagram.com/zakiyahooker

www.facebook.com/zakiyahooker

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