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B.B. King Remembered

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Friends, fans, and musicians alike are mourning the death of legendary blues artist B.B. King, who died on Thursday night (May 14th) at the age of 89 following a series of strokes. The guitar legend’s lawyer reported that King passed away in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas. He had long suffered from Type II diabetes and canceled a tour last October due to ill health. He never performed live again. Best known outside of the blues world for classic songs like “The Thrill Is Gone,” King was a touring artist for over a half-century, averaging 275 shows a year. He also released more than 50 albums since the 1940’s, was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, won 15 Grammy Awards — including a Lifetime Achievement Award — and was the recipient of Kennedy Center Honors from President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Ranked Number Six on Rolling Stone’s 2011 list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, King influenced generations of blues and rock guitarists and was one of the biggest blues artists to cross over from regional success to mainstream and commercial fame within his own lifetime.

B.B. King was born in Mississippi as Riley B. King on September 16th, 1925 and worked in the cotton fields as an orphan before starting on the path that made him a living legend and a national treasure.

Longtime friend and frequent collaborator Eric Clapton was the first to offer up a eulogy to King posting a video online, which said in part: “I just wanted to express my sadness and to say thank you to my dear friend B.B. King. I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement he gave to me as a player over the years and for the friendship that we enjoyed. There’s not a lot left to say because his music is almost a thing of the past now and there are not many left that play it in the pure way that B.B. did. If you’re not familiar with his work I would encourage you to go out and find an album called B.B. King Live At The Regal, which is where it all really started for me as a young player.”

Rita Washington, the 13th of B.B. King’s 15 children, and among those battling for custody of King in his final days, was quoted by The New York Post’s Page Six as saying: “My dad grew up with a broken heart . . . He left here with a broken heart. He didn’t have his loved ones with him. God has given him wings. He’s there with family now.”

Mick Jagger: “So sad to hear of BB King’s passing, he was someone we all looked up to.”

Keith Richards: “We had some great times and I will miss him . . . Peace BB.”

Ringo Starr: “God bless BB King peace and love to his family Ringo and Barbara x”

President Barack Obama: “Three years ago, Michelle and I hosted a blues concert at the White House. I hadn’t expected that I’d be talked into singing a few lines of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ with B.B. by the end of the night, but that was the kind of effect his music had, and still does. He gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving, he gets you doing the things you probably shouldn’t do — but will be always be glad you did. B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever. And there’s going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight.”

President Bill Clinton: “I will always be grateful that twice I had the chance to play with him, and that he received the Kennedy Center Honor when I was president. While an American legend has gone to his greater reward, the thrill of his gifts to us will never be gone.”

Buddy Guy: “This morning, I come to you all with a heavy heart. BB King was the greatest guy I ever met. The tone he got out of that guitar, the way he shook his left wrist, the way he squeezed the strings… man, he came out with that and it was all new to the whole guitar playin’ world. He could play so smooth, he didn’t have to put on a show. The way BB did it is the way we all do it now. He was my best friend and father to us all. I’ll miss you, B. I love you and I promise I will keep these damn Blues alive. Rest well.”

Peter Frampton: “My heart goes out to BB King’s family and all who loved him. A great friend and an amazing guitar player left us peacefully today. We will all miss you BB. RIP”

Bonnie Raitt: “We became friends and later he would confide in me about his personal life and how he loved the ladies. To watch him backstage flirting with beautiful women was a delight. He loved his fans, but he enjoyed the company of kind and appreciative women. I always wished he’d had a steadfast and steady partner, but he was on the road so much. He could have retired years ago and cut his schedule back, but he told me he stayed on the road to be able to support his band and crew. He had a big band. I always wondered how he could afford it. He just worked all the time. He was pretty happy, but I always wondered if he was a lonely guy. But I never asked him about that — I didn’t want to invade his space. He must have had some kind of pain in his life, but talk about overcoming whatever hardships he had.”

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Derek Trucks: “For B.B., when he found that tone, it was a watershed moment for guitar. After that, every one of us has borrowed or stolen that sound and that feel. It’s really like a great voice. It’s that thing you can’t really define. It’s pure, but it’s dirty. It’s broken in the right spots. It’s true. He talked about his uncle, Bukka White, and the sound of his slide and trying to emulate that, which you can hear in his vibrato. But that tone set him apart. I still try to do it. Still to this day, when you’re trying to get a sound, that’s one of the things you go to — can you do that? It really is the goal, for Eric and a lot of us. It’s the thing we’re all after.”

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Paul Stanley: “RIP B.B. King. Very sad. You will ALWAYS be THE BLUES. RIP BB King”

Gene Simmons: “Very sad. BB KING: Rest In Peace.”

Joe Perry: “So sad to wake up this morning and hear the news about the passing of the great BB King.”

Richie Sambora: “My friend and ledgend BB King passed.. I’m so so sad….he was so great to me… We’ve lost the King….. My love and prayers to his family.”

Gladys Knight: “What a brilliant man you were. One who will forever be noted as such an inspiration to millions globally, RIP BB King”

Lenny Kravitz: “BB, anyone could play a thousand notes and never say what you said in one. RIP BB King”

Bryan Adams: “RIP BB King, one of the best blues guitarists ever, maybe the best. He could do more on one note than anyone”

Slash: “Devastated by the passing of BB King. My favorite blues guitarist. & a truly wonderful man. RIP BB.”

Myles Kennedy: “The thrill is gone but never-to-be forgotten. Rest in peace B.B. King”

Brad Paisley: “Sad to hear B.B. King has left us. I loved collaborating with him, loved his music, & his spirit. He changed music forever. God bless him.”

Samuel L. Jackson: “Play a BB King song today & remember.’

B.B. King was among the first of the famed bluesmen to be able to break down the intricacies of the form and discuss the structure of the blues to the general public: “Most of the tunes that I play is of a 12-bar pattern. Which is, some people call the regular traditional type of blues, even though I like jazz and sometimes I find a lot of fun in trying to play just a little bit for my own amusement; which would be eight or 32-bar-type things. Now, there are blues that I play that are eight-bar-type of blues that I play, but not as much as I do with 12-bar-type-things. So, what I meant about my time — not the beat. The beat. . . they usually say I’m pretty good, that I drive quite a bit while playing on the beat. But for instance, a 12-bar tune, I allow the end at about 15-bars (laughs), y’see, because that’s when (laughs) anybody listening don’t pay it any attention, but anyone trying to play with ‘em, that’s when you have problems.”

Photo Courtesy of MCA/UMe

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