The blogosphere is lit up with remembrances for Blues legend B.B. King, who died last night at age 89. The New York Times is reporting that King, known as the “King of the Blues,” passed away after being taken to the hospital for diabetes-related complications. Known for his hits ‘My Lucille,’ ‘Sweet Little Angel’ and ‘Rock Me Baby,’ the Blues legend died in his sleep.
Tim Weiner of the New York Times writes:
“Mr. King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love.
‘I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,’ Mr. King said in his autobiography, ‘Blues All Around Me’ (1996), written with David Ritz.
In performances, his singing and his solos flowed into each other as he wrung notes from the neck of his guitar, vibrating his hand as if it were wounded, his face a mask of suffering. Many of the songs he sang — like his biggest hit, ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ (‘I’ll still live on/But so lonely I’ll be’) — were poems of pain and perseverance.
The music historian Peter Guralnick once noted that Mr. King helped expand the audience for the blues through ‘the urbanity of his playing, the absorption of a multiplicity of influences, not simply from the blues, along with a graciousness of manner and willingness to adapt to new audiences and give them something they were able to respond to.’”
King’s signature instrument was named Lucille, a black Gibson. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the R&B Hall of Fame in 2014. In addition, King won fifteen Grammy Awards (including a lifetime achievement award), had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was among the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. A Type 2 diabetic, B.B. King served as spokesperson for One Touch testing strips.
A man who grew up picking cotton, became a millionaire many times over. King was also an entrepreneur. He owned a chain of nightclubs bearing his name (including a popular room on West 42nd Street in Manhattan). The “Ambassador of Blues” worked with a legion of artists including Eric Clapton, U2, The Roots and The Rolling Stones. R.I.P. Mr. King.
Read more at the New York Times.