Saturday sounds: B.B. King

Realistically, he probably won’t be us with much longer, but when he passes from this realm, he will be remembered forever as the “King of the Blues.”

B.B. King was born Sept. 16, 1925, and I hope he makes it to his 90th birthday. During his decades of performing, he and his guitar Lucille have become known around the world for a readily identifiable sound and soulful singing that defines a whole genre of music.

According to his website, he is resting at his home these days after canceling the last eight shows of his tour last year. Up to that point, he had done 70 performances. Seventy. Amazing.

Rolling Stone magazine in its 2003 list ranked him at No.3 on its list of the “100 greatest guitarists of all time.” Deservedly so, considering the man began pumping out a string of hits in the early ’50s — classics like “Everyday I Have The Blues” “You Upset Me Baby” and “Sweet Little Angel” — and has come to be appreciated by multiple generations of fans.

He is, of course, best known for “The Thrill is Gone,” which won a Grammy Award and in my teenage years became one of my favorite songs.

As a college student in the Bay Area, I saw him perform at Winterland in San Francisco, just a few feet from the stage, and shook his hand after his set.

In the twilight of his career, B.B. has collaborated with so many bands and musicians — everyone from U2 (“When Love Comes To Town”) to Eric Clapton, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks — there are too many to list.

When I pause to consider that this man was born in a cabin on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, I’m in awe of the distance he’s traveled to become the American music icon he is.


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