In the Olympic tradition, when the torch is passed, the flame transfers from one sure hand to the next – keeping it burning, while at the same time moving forward. It’s a fitting image for the career of Ronnie Baker Brooks, the exciting Chicago musician whose fiery guitar playing and soulful singing make him today’s premier torchbearer of the urban blues tradition.
As the son of blues great Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie came of age as a witness to the Chicago blues scene in all its glory and struggle. “I grew up among the best of the best,” he recalls. “Every time I play, I feel like I’ve got to do it with the authenticity and passion that I saw in guys like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and my father. But I also have to put my twist on it: None of those guys repeated what came before them.”
On such acclaimed albums as Golddigger (1998), Take Me Witcha (2001), and The Torch(2006), Brooks enlivened electric blues with infusions of Southern soul, modern hip–hop vocals and funk rhythms.
“I like to think of how Muddy Waters took the Mississippi blues he heard in his youth and modernized it for his times by making it electric and harder,” he explains. “That’s what I’m trying to do for my generation. I want to take what’s authentic and powerful about the music I grew up loving and bring in other influences without losing the heart and conviction of it.”
“When I grew up, all my friends listened to rap and funk, and I listened to the blues. So I heard their music and they heard mine. I think we both saw some connection between them. I like that line in the movie Hustle & Flow when they say this new rap song ain’t nothing but ‘Back Door Man’ written for modern streets.
“It’s a hip-hop world today, but I want to bring a little blues to the party.”