B.B King, blues legend, passed away in his home in Las Vegas, Nevada, last night at the age of 89.
Riley B. King, born in Mississippi in 1925, was the epitome of the classic blues era, the creator of the blues-funk era, and the bedrock of rock-and-roll. He and his inseparable partner, Lucille (originally a Gibson L-30 which he saved from a burning club, then a few 1960-70s Gibson Es-345s, and finally the ES-355, of which a custom variant was created specifically for B.B. King and remained a popular member of the Gibson catalogue), released 46 albums over their illustrious and epic career. B.B. King’s phrasing and “blues box” based picking influenced the greatest musicians of the era including Jimi Hendrix, who was kicked off stage early in his career for copying too much of B.B. King’s style.
He released his first album, Singin’ The Blues, in 1957 and has been touring constantly since then. His breakout hit, When The Thrill Is Gone, cemented his spot in the blues pantheon and remains his most popular song to this day.
His tours have taken him across the world, including a brilliant concert in which he performed his now-classic Why I Sing The Blues in Kinshasa, Congo.
Despite those he profoundly influenced, such as Keith Richards, Joe Perry, and Slash, eclipsing their master’s work and the blues-funk era slipping out of vogue, B.B. King’s career flourished, carried aloft by his loyal disciples in such as albums as Eric Clapton’s Riding With The King.
King also performed regularly at Clapton’s Crossroad’s Festival alongside blues legends such as Buddy Guy.
His work with such greats as Ray Charles created blues standards that have weathered the turbulent music tastes of the past 50 years.
But not one to keep his age and his era from defining him, B.B. King always went to great lengths to invite the best up-and-coming artists from all genres to perform with him. From ZZ Top and Slash to John Mayer and Derek Trucks, B.B. King has always graciously lent a seat on his stage and showed nothing but pride in the artists that followed in his footsteps.
King is survived by his two wives, 15 children, and a legacy that will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.