Houston-based Fast Cut Films, in association with Sunset Productions, is working on a documentary feature film, “Where Lightnin’ Strikes,” about the life and times of Houston blues legend Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins (1912-1982). The enduring musical journey of Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins began on a cotton farm in Centerville,Texas in 1912. He was drawn to the music he heard played by an older brother. After meeting up with Dallas bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson, Sam left the hardscrabble life of the Texas cotton fields, determined to play his way to better circumstances. Possessing a sharp wit and a unique ability for endless improvisation, Lightnin became a master storyteller. He was able to convey profound truths about the human condition via poetic imagery. The “Po’ Lightnin” that inhabited his tales of struggle and misery became the “Everyman” that black audiences identified with and white audiences flocked to performances to experience. Whether playing on a street corner on Dowling Street or at Carnegie Hall his style defined Texas blues. He sounded like no one else yet influenced every one. His unique musical style influenced generations of blues, rock, country and soul musicians as well as filmmakers, writers and painters. Over the course of his 60-year career, Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded more music than any other blues artist. His discography includes more than 100 albums for more than twenty different recording labels. He made Houston his home in the 1940s. In 1982, his funeral drew more than 4,000 devoted fans and musicians to the city to celebrate and honor him.
WHY THIS FILM IS IMPORTANT
The blues is a response to a legacy of deprivation, and a tribute to the belief that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Hopkins struggled to exist while living on the sporadic and meager income generated while playing clubs and anywhere else he could be heard. He always kept moving forward to rise above his early life. “Where Lightnin’ Strikes” will tell Hopkins’ story of survival and of his contributions to the landscape of music, the arts, and humanity itself. This rich story needs to be told before the memories are lost.
Lightnin’ was famous worldwide and, arguably, the most historically significant musician from Houston. During the 1960s, Lightnin’s music brought together disparate cultures, once separated by color and circumstance, in a communal human experience. “Where Lightnin’ Strikes” will examine how Hopkins’ music is colorblind and unifying. The film will reveal how his music inspired people of different cultures in unpredictable ways. This documentary is an exploration and celebration of the life of a unique and talented individual. His life was a humble one but the impact of his music and the poetry of his lyrics went beyond the borders of Houston, reaching around the world inspiring all that heard him.
Lightnin’s story is an important part of Houston’s heritage as he made Houston’s historically black Third Ward home. Regrettably, no public acknowledgment of Lightnin’ or his contribution to Houston’s heritage and culture can be found in Houston. This documentary will educate the community on Lightnin’s life and preserve his memory.
The film, currently in production, includes on-camera interviews with family members, band members, historians, eyewitnesses and musicians influenced by Lightnin’s work. Additionally the film will explore Lightnin’s influence on artists outside of music including painters, sculptors and writers. These interviews will be combined with archival photographs, newsreels, and performance footage.