June 23, 2013 - (Memphis) The Memphis Music Foundation confirms well-known blues musician Bobby “Blue” Bland has died.
Bland got his start in the 1950′s and 60′s and would later perform with artists like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. He is best known for hits like “Turn on Your Love Light”, “That’s the Way Love Is” and “I Pity the Fool”. Bland was born in Rosemark, TN but later moved to Memphis with his mother. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. Pat Worley with the Memphis Music Foundation said, “It is a great loss for the blues and for Memphis Music. He was a trail blazer and his music will be missed.”
Robert Calvin Bland (born January 27, 1930) better known as Bobby “Blue” Bland, is an American singer of blues and soul. He is an original member of The Beale Streeters. and is sometimes referred to as the "Lion of the Blues". Along with such artists as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Junior Parker, Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B.
In 1992, Bobby Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1997 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bland's recordings from the early 1950s show him striving for individuality, but any progress was halted by a spell in the U.S. Army. When the singer returned to Memphis in 1954 he found several of his former associates, including Johnny Ace, enjoying considerable success, while Bland's recording label, Duke, had been sold to Houston entrepreneur Don Robey. In 1956 Bland began touring with Little Junior Parker. Initially he doubled as valet and driver, a role he reportedly fulfilled for B. B. King and Rosco Gordon. Simultaneously, Bland began asserting his characteristic vocal style. Melodic big-band blues singles, including "Farther Up The Road" (1957) and "Little Boy Blue" (1958) reached the US R&B Top 10, but Bobby's craft was most clearly heard on a series of early 1960s releases including "Cry Cry Cry," "I Pity The Fool" and the sparkling "Turn On Your Love Light," which became a much-covered standard. Despite credits to the contrary, many such classic works were written by Joe Scott, the artist's bandleader and arranger.
Bland continued to enjoy a consistent run of R&B chart entries throughout the mid-'60s but his recorded work was nonetheless eclipsed by a younger generation of performers. Bland's highest charting song on the pop chart, "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" only peaked at #20 during the same week The Beatles held down the Top 5 spots. Financial pressures forced the singer to cut his touring band and in 1968 the group broke up altogether. His relationship with Scott, who died in 1979, was irrevocably severed. Nonetheless, depressed and increasingly dependent on alcohol, Bland weathered this unhappy period. He stopped drinking in 1971; his record company, Duke, was sold by owner Don Robey to the larger ABC Records group. This resulted in several successful and critically-acclaimed contemporary blues/soul albums including His California Album and Dreamer, arranged by Michael O'Martian and produced by ABC staff man, Steve Barri. The albums, including the later "follow-up" in 1977, Reflections in Blue, were all recorded in Los Angeles and featured many of the city's top session men at the time.
The first single released from the California album, This Time I'm Gone For Good took Bland back into the pop Top 50 for the first time since 1964 and made the R&B top 10 in late 1973. The lead-off track from Dreamer, "Ain't No Love In the Heart of the City," was a minor pop hit, but it would eventually become Bland's best-known song, thanks to a cover by the hard rock band Whitesnake and, much later, a sample on Jay-Z's 2001 album The Blueprint. The follow-up, I Wouldn't Treat A Dog was his biggest R&B hit for some years, climbing to #3 in late 1974, but it struggled in the pop chart to reach only #88. Subsequent attempts at pushing the artist towards the disco market were unsuccessful. A return to his roots in 1980 for a tribute album to his mentor Joe Scott, produced by music veterans Monk Higgins and Al Bell, resulted in a fine album Sweet Vibrations, but it failed to sell well.
In 1985, Bland was signed by Malaco Records, specialists in traditional Southern black music, who provided an empathetic environment and the singer has turned out a series of well-crafted albums in the ensuing years while continuing to tour and occasionally appear at concerts with fellow blues singer, B.B.King. The two had collaborated for two albums in the 1970s. One of the finest singers in post-war blues, Bobby Bland has sadly failed to reach the across-the-board popular acclaim that his influence and craft deserves.
Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison has often had Bland as a guest singer at his concerts and also included a previously unreleased version of a March 2000 duet of Morrison and Bland singing "Tupelo Honey" on his 2007 compilation album, The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3.