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A Conversation with Lightnin’ Hopkins

Some say the blues are easy to play but hard to feel. And then there are those who not only feel the blues, they are the blues. Lightnin’ Hopkins was spellbound by the blues from an early age when he met Blind Lemon Jefferson at a church picnic in Buffalo, Texas. Hopkins later went on to play with Jefferson, and so began his career and lifelong love affair with the blues. 


This video is a snippet from a short documentary titled The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1969) by Les Blank, which captures a raw and masterful portrait of what the blues meant to Hopkins. The interview was recorded on the same night his wife had left him while her cousin was lurking outside the apartment with a loaded pistol with intention of shooting Lightinin’ as retribution for the nasty argument between the couple.

Lightnin’ himself was also armed, yet when asked what the blues meant to him, he calmly and effortlessly improvised these riffs into a harmony full of emotion about a woman named Mary who had left him. But that’s not surprising coming from a man whose playing always sounded like a conversation with an old friend who does most of the talking, and you’re just happy to be listening. 


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