I am sure news of BB King’s passing has reached just about every corner of the earth by now. Everything that needs to be said has been said, I am sure. As a long time fan of his work, I feel compelled to share some brief thoughts with you in honor of his memory.
BB King was one of the first Blues artists I was made aware of. In 1987 or 1988, a friend of my father’s loaned me some Blues records. This stack of vinyl was my introduction to Electric Blues and kicked off what would end up becoming a life long musical obsession. Among the records I was loaned was BB King’s seminal recording ‘Live At The Regal’. This record is universally regarded as not only one of BB’s best, but one of the best live Electric Blues albums of all time. Through these recordings I was exposed to a genre and style of playing that I dearly love and do my best to pay homage to every time I take the bandstand.
BB King was not only the single most important and influential Electric Guitarist of all time, but also he was the “Ambassador of the Blues” to the world. His touring schedule is the stuff of legend. At the height of his career he played over 300 nights a year. Last year, before he retired from playing, I just read he played 150 shows at the age of 88. Unbelievable!
I was fortunate to see him play a handful of times over the years. I was even more fortunate to get to meet him twice. He was known for going out of his way for his fans and meeting people and signing autographs for hours after performances. For those of you who are not familiar with his work, I would encourage you to seek out his music. Many people think of the Blues as sad or depressing music. Nothing could be further from the case with BB King and The Blues. The music of the Blues is about all feelings, all emotions, all circumstances.
It is sad to lose The King; however, he will always be with us through his music and influence. He showed many of us how it is done and what it means to be a professional musician. He made millions of people happy over his 6 decade-long career. I would call that a life well lived. The thrill is not gone, it is here to stay. Thank you Mr. King for everything you gave us.