Lightnin' Hopkins, born Sam John Hopkins, was an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist, and occasional pianist, from Centerville, Texas. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 71 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
By the time of his death in 1982, Hopkins was likely the most recorded blues artist in history. Born in 1912 to a poor sharecropping family in Texas, Hopkins left home when he was only eight years old with a guitar his brother had given him. He made his living however he could, sticking to the open road, playing the blues, and taking odd jobs when money was short.
Hopkins didn’t begin recording until 1946, when he was dubbed "Lightnin'" during his first session, and he soon joined Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker on the national R & B charts. But by the time he was rediscovered 1959, his popularity had begun to wane. A second career emerged as Lightnin’ was pitched to white audiences, not black ones, and he became immensely successful, singing about his country roots and injustices that informed the civil rights era with a searing emotive power.
Hopkins died of esophageal cancer in Houston on January 30, 1982, at the age of 69. His obituary in the New York Times described him as "one of the great country blues singers and perhaps the greatest single influence on rock guitar players."