Today, 15 May 2015, a generation of music has ended with the death of BB King who passed away in his sleep in Las Vegas. He was 89 years of age and suffering from diabetes. Born on 16 September 1925 in a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississipi, King was a 15 times Grammy award winner. His style of playing the guitar inclined towards single strung notes, loud chords, bent notes and vibratos. His music has the ability to lay at ease a troubled mind or to rejoice along with others’ jubilation. To sum him and his music up in one word, they were ALIVE and will forever remain so, in our hearts.
Riley B. King, better known as BB King, had been performing for more than 70 years, with over 50 albums, his career expanding well into his 80’s. He had begun recording in the 1940’s and got his first big break in 1948 when he performed on Sunny Boy Williamson’s radio program. His first Rhythm N’ Blues (R&B) hit “Three O’Clock Blues” was recorded in 1950. King was also a mentor to various artists including Eric Clapton and Bobby Guy.
He made it to the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and to the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in 1987 along with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. He was also awarded with the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received doctorates from Yale University in 1977 and Berklee College of Music in 1982, rising to be known as the King of Blues and rightly so. President George W. Bush had placed on him the honour of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006.
His songs ‘How Blue Can You Get,’ ‘The Thrill Is Gone,’ ‘Everyday I Have The Blues,’ ‘Payin The Cost To Be The Boss,’ were the most popular concert numbers. His songs were a “call and response between him and Lucille (his Gibson guitar).” As he used to say, “When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille.”
Many celebrities have lamented his demise on social media namely, Lenny Kravitz “BB, anyone could play a thousand notes and never say what you said in one. #RIP #BBKing.” Eric Clapton too has put up a video saying goodbye to his “dear friend” who was an inspiration to him. He states in the video that the King’s music was pure in a way that cannot be found anymore.
Eric Clapton’s tribute video:
No artist of the blues has placed hands on a guitar and produced magic the way BB King did. It is a rare phenomenon to listen to a song that speaks to every fibre of a human soul, a phenomenon that was effortless when the King took to the mike. His music demands the audience to forget the world around them and to immerse themselves into its sanctity, to be devoid of all malice till it lasts. I will be looking forward to hearing your music again when I finally take “the TWA to the Promised Land.” You haven’t died BB King but become immortal forever, thank you.
Eric Calpton and BB King “Riding with the King.”