THE ICON: James Booker
THE LEGACY: As descriptions go, it’s a dandy, from none other than Dr. John about James Booker, whom he called “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” But you could strip away most of those adjectives and still be dead-on accurate. Booker was a piano genius, plain and simple, with a singular playing style — dizzyingly complex but thoroughly grooveable — that made even the likes of Allen Toussaint shake his head in wonder. He was also a classic New Orleans character but a tragic one, undone early by madness and substance abuse. Regardless, in his 43 years he took the New Orleans sound to a new level, one still emulated — and celebrated — by countless musicians today.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “Human nature is the reason why I play the piano the way I do. But no just ordinary human nature — some people say I’m a freak of nature.” — James Booker