Be sure and check out www.ourpriests.com where you can listen to music dedicated to all priests, plus a song dedicated to the memory of Pope John Paul II. The songs are presented in English and in Spanish.
A unique feature of this site is a place where you can post reflections on a priest in your life that you would like to honor.
This site and the music are the work of Joseph Lee Hooker. His official biography states that Hooker" is a prolific songwriter whose music has attained national and international acclaim. His most recent award came via the John Lennon Songwriter's Contest -- apropos, as Hooker remains adamant that Lennon, McCartney and the Beatles will always be his main musical influences. "Simplicity like that is perfection that will never be duplicated," he states.
Hooker is a dedicated martial artist with blackbelts in Tang Soo Do and Hapkido. He currently collaborates with wife Bridget, a Magna cum laude Stanford University graduate and certified translator, on projects in various languages. These days, Hooker writes the lead verse, chorus and hook, and leaves remaining verses up to his wife. "I can't write a word without his melodies," she states. The pair co-produces in the studio, each one claiming the other "is better."
A singer/songwriter since 1963, Joseph, or "The Hook", first performed live on the big stage on New Jersey's famous Steel Pier as part of Tony Grant's "Stars of Tomorrow". There he met the Supremes, Gene Krupa, and was taught how to move on stage by Rudy Pompelli (Bill Haley's Comets). In fact, it was the manager of Haley's Comets who first approached Joseph when he was a mere 13 years old and offered to buy the first song he ever wrote, "A Girl Like You." The young songwriter declined, and after a bit of a delay, plans to release the toon in 2010.
Joseph Hooker devoted his early years to recording and performing dozens of his own original songs, and writing hundreds more. "In school, I would watch the old Simplex clock on the wall during class, and write songs... I would aim for three minutes a song, as I'd heard once on the radio that that was the perfect song length..."
He was the only solo artist to perform at the 1st International Pop Festival in Puerto Rico in 1972, following John McLaughlin and the Mahu Vishnu Orchestra. McLaughlin was very complimentary about Joseph's spectacular performance, and afterward, many labeled Joseph as an "up and coming" artist. Unfortunately, just weeks after returning from Puerto Rico, Joseph was almost killed in a motorcycle accident which landed him in the hospital for months and took years of recovery. He continued to sing and write as a way to heal from his wounds, something which has become a personal theme on his journey through life.
"Music has been there for me when no one else was... God spoke to me, and still teaches me, through my own songs. I've learned to pay attention, because often, I don't even know where the words come from, and it takes me a while to understand the meaning."
Joseph later performed at the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1990, and sang harmony to "You Are So Beautiful" with Billy Preston. He performed at Vet Stadium in the early 1980's, and live on the nationally-televised Dance Party USA. He performed at World Youth Day 1994 in Denver, and traveled around the country for years singing at youth conferences and churches. His winning song "Photo of the Century," awarded by Kodak, was performed for current Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell. Music videos to two of his songs, "Don't Cry, Mary" and "The Miracle Song," have aired on cable TV and EWTN.
The death of his firstborn son, Luke John, to liver cancer in 1997 was a huge blow, he said, which "kind of knocked the song out of me". When he picked up his guitar years later, his songs had become even richer, deeper, more soulful -- to the point that he realized that he had more to say -- and more to learn -- through his lyrics than ever. He chose to focus on songwriting with either a spiritual or patriotic bent, and recently won recognition for "The Miracle Song", written in honor of his departed son, in the annual and wildly-popular John Lennon Songwriting contest.
Hooker's songs since turning 50 are much richer and contain many more layers than his early music; in fact, there may be a whole different genre he is defining: NEW ADULT music, inspired by the best of rock's hayday, and sprinkled with the sentiment we all seek as time goes on. His songs are not "oldies", nor strictly folk or pop -- and they are something far beyond hip-hop or unintelligible, angry rap. Music COMES ALIVE again through this artist, and takes each listener along for the incredible, soul-stirring ride. Isn't that always how it was meant to be?"
Visit www.ourpriests.com to find out more and to leave reflections about a priest who means the world to you.
Copyright 2009 Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.