Humanity has a million different divisions, yet rock emblem George Thorogood insists that all of us share one unifying mediator.
“Everyone loves music,” said Thorogood. “It is the one thing in the world that appeals to everybody on the planet. There are people who don’t like themselves, who don’t like their jobs, who don’t like sports, or who don’t like food, or don’t even like sex. There are people living in the darkest cave on farthest part of the planet. Even in the very worst federal penitentiary on the planet. But they love music. There are people who have no TV, or don’t like reading, no sightseeing. But everybody loves music.”
Of course this frank American rocker is partial to a certain genre.
“Whether you are in the elevator or in the dentist’s chair, the radio is on 24-7, and the music that rules is rock. Could you imagine if you didn’t hear Steve Miller’s 'Rock’n Me Baby'? No matter what, 'Jumpin’ Jack Flash' still rules. Rock rules.”
Thorogood is a well-versed primary source, having rocked for a long time, churning out anthems such as “Bad to the Bone,” “I Drink Alone,” and “Get a Haircut.” His latest tour with the Destroyers is titled "Good To Be Bad: 45 Years of Rock," acknowledgement of a longstanding unity galvanized with their self-titled debut album, released in 1977.
From Thorogood’s smoky pool hall “Bad to the Bone” video airing around the advent of MTV, to the recent release of his tender and tough solo album titled “Party of One,” he has approached music with the passionate conviction that it is the need and the right and the pleasure of all human beings.
He was born and raised in northern Delaware, with all of the plainness “as normal and as regular as a piece of Wonder Bread” and within an existence “that was so normal I couldn’t stand it.” He wasn’t particularly exceptional and he wasn’t a slacker. He wasn’t a failure yet he wasn’t a particularly great success. He was always restricted to the middle.
“I was a kid who was the middle child of a middle-class family in the middle of nowhere,” said Thorogood. “I was a straight-C student. I wasn’t a bad kid and I wasn’t a good kid. I wasn’t tall and I wasn’t short. I wasn’t fat and I wasn’t thin. I wasn’t good looking but I wasn’t ugly. I wanted to be Zorro or Paladin or Mick Jagger, or somebody bluesy. People will say, 'Well I was like that, too.' And I say, 'No, you grew up in New York, or L.A. or Texas. I grew up in Delaware.'”
Thorogood’s window on the world widened on Feb. 9, 1964, when the Beatles, with their Edwardian/beatnik suits and pudding bowl, mop-top haircuts, made their first American television appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“This guy comes out playing the guitar left-handed and guitar is shaped like a violin,” recalled Thorogood. “Then he starts to sing, ‘Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you’ – and that was it. Elvis Presley shook the world and the Beatles shook the universe.”
To Thorogood, the performance didn’t only exhibit an appealing sense of harmony, but it held a greater pervasive influence and importance as its own declaration of freedom.
“The Beatles represented freedom, and Bob Dylan represented truth, and the Rolling Stones represented hope. After the seeing the Beatles, we all thought just maybe we might be able to pull it off. Everyone has a career in music because of the Beatles and that night jolted everyone’s brains, and everyone from Tom Petty to John Mellancamp, knows that that was it. The Beatles didn’t have to go into the army, they didn’t have to get their hair cut, they probably could’ve had any woman in the world. They were young, healthy, they had money, and they were four gentlemen at the peak of the peak and uppermost of the topper-most.”
After delving into the sounds of the British Invasion and harvesting the roots of the Mississippi blues, Thorogood merged these influences and sprinkled in his own sentiments of rebellion and restlessness which formed its own catalog in the cannon of rock n’ roll.
“Mississippi — there is no place that is that scary at night, and the sky is dark and blacker than Indian ink. It was always spooky for me when I was there, and it scared me a little bit. That aura of the blues, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, it’s like they are all connected to voodoo or something. The blues scene is fascinating and mysterious, but I’m much more comfortable listening to 'Jumpin’ Jack Flash.'”
Nonetheless, some of the songs he has popularized such as John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer,” are associated more with him than even their original sources in the minds of many listeners.
“‘One Bourbon’ was just one of those songs that felt too good not to be heard. It has been a blessing and an honor to sing it.”
Reflecting on more than four decades in the music industry, one of Thorogood’s most playful mantras about his living a life in the middle is that he and his band have never been nominated (for a Grammy), have never dominated the charts, and yet they will never be duplicated. The performer in Thorogood understands that, at age 69, life is less about daring deeds and unknown realms than it is about embracing and celebrating 90 minutes of a pure existence.
“I share the pleasures with the world and the pain I keep to myself. There is a lot of pain in life. Entertainment — people need it. It has to be accessible.”
And it takes a "B-B-B Bad man" to keep people feeling so very good.
“The spirit is still there, but getting the engine cranked up is a little different now than it used to be. You’ve got to go easy on the old man. But music pulls everybody through — even me.”