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B.B. King, the larger-than-life guitarist and singer who helped popularize electric blues and brought it to audiences for more than six decades, died Thursday, May 14th, 2015 in Las Vegas. He was 89.
B. B. King (born Riley B. King, September 16, 1925) is an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. Critical acclaim and widespread popularity have cemented his reputation as one of the most respected and successful blues musicians. Rolling Stone magazine named him the third-greatest guitarist of "the 100 greatest guitarists of all time".
In the 1950s, B. B. King became one of the most important names in R&B music, amassing an impressive list of hits including "You Know I Love You," "Woke Up This Morning," "Please Love Me," "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer," "Whole Lotta Love," "You Upset Me Baby," "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Sneakin' Around," "Ten Long Years," "Bad Luck," "Sweet Little Angel," and "Please Accept My Love." In 1962, B. B. King signed to ABC-Paramount Records, which was later absorbed into MCA Records, and then his current label, Geffen Records.
B. B. King in concert in France (1989)King's first success outside the blues market was his 1969 remake of Roy Hawkins' tune "The Thrill Is Gone." King's version became a hit on both pop and R&B charts, which was rare for an R&B artist. It also gained the number 183 spot in Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". He gained further rock visibility as an opening act on The Rolling Stones' 1969 American Tour. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You Is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love."
The 1980s, 1990s and 2000s saw King recording less and less. Yet throughout this time he maintained a highly visible and active career, appearing on numerous television shows and performing 300 nights a year. In 1988 King reached a new generation of fans with the single “When Love Comes to Town”, a collaborative effort between King and the Irish band U2 (on their Rattle and Hum album). In 2000, King teamed up with guitarist Eric Clapton to record Riding With the King. In 1998 B. B. King appeared in The Blues Brothers 2000, playing the part of the lead singer of the Louisiana Gator Boys, along with Clapton, Dr. John, Koko Taylor and Bo Diddley.
In 2003, King shared the stage with the rock band Phish in New Jersey, performing three of his classics and jamming with the band for over 45 minutes.
In June 2006, King was present at a memorialization of his first radio broadcast at the Three Deuces Building in Greenwood, Mississippi, where an official marker of the Mississippi Blues Trail was erected.
B. B. King also made an appearance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival II, established by Eric Clapton in Chicago Illinois on July 28, 2007. On the DVD, he plays "Paying the Cost to Be the Boss" and "Rock Me Baby" with Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin. In the live broadcast, he offered a toast to the concert's host, Eric Clapton, and philosophized about his age and life. This never made it in its entirety to the subsequently released PBS broadcast or Crossroads II DVD.
In June 2006, a groundbreaking was held for a new B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, Mississippi. The museum opened on September 13, 2008.
B. B. King was also the final performer at the 25th annual Chicago Blues Festival on June 8, 2008.
In June 2008, B. B. King was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame alongside Liza Minnelli and Sir James Galway.
In July 2008, Sirius/XM Radio's Bluesville channel was re-named B. B.
In July King went back to Europe, playing twice (2 & 3 July) in the 40th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival and also in Zürich at the Blues at Sunset on 14 July. During his show in Montreux at the Stravinski Hall he jammed with Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, David Sanborn, Gladys Knight, Lella James, Earl Thomas, Stanley Clarke, John McLaughlin, Barbara Hendricks and George Duke. The European leg of the Farewell tour ended in Luxembourg on 19 September 2006 at the D'Coque Arena (support act: Todd Sharpville).
Live at Montreux, July 2006In November and December, King played six times in Brazil. During a press conference on November 29 in São Paulo, a journalist asked King if that would be the actual farewell tour. He answered: "One of my favorite actors is a man from Scotland named Sean Connery. Most of you know him as James Bond, 007. He made a movie called Never Say Never Again."
On 28 July 2007, King played at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival with 20 other guitarists to raise money for the Crossroads Centre for addictive disorders, located in Antigua.
In June 2008, King played at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and on 1 August 2008, he performed at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, Massachusetts.
In June 2008, King played the final set of the Monterey, California
Blues Festival following Taj Mahal.
He has made guest appearances in numerous popular television shows, including The Cosby Show, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sesame Street, Married With Children and Sanford and Son.
King is the subject of a biography, B. B. King: There is Always One More Time, by the noted New York-based music writer David McGee.
In the Beatles' song "Dig It" from the Let It Be sessions, John
Lennon states "Like the FBI...and the CIA...and the BBC...BB King...and
Doris Day...Matt Busby...Dig it..."
King is a licensed pilot, a known gambler, a vegetarian, non-drinker, and non-smoker. He has lived with Type II Diabetes for over twenty years and is a visible spokesman in the fight against the disease, appearing in advertisements for diabetes-management products.
His favorite singer is Frank Sinatra. In his autobiography King speaks about how he was, and is, a "Sinatra nut" and how he went to bed every night listening to Sinatra's classic album In the Wee Small Hours. King has credited Sinatra for opening doors to black entertainers who weren't given the chance to play in "white dominated" venues. Sinatra got B. B. King into the main showrooms in Vegas during the 1960s.
Each year, during the first week in June, a B. B. King homecoming festival is held in Indianola, Mississippi.
Boxer Sonny Liston was King's uncle.
By his own admission, he cannot play chords very well and always
relies on improvisation.
Illness and death
On May 27, 2015, his body was flown to Memphis. The funeral
procession led down Beale Street, with a brass band marching in front of
the hearse, playing "When the Saints Go Marching In", as mourners called
out "BB". Rodd Bland, son of the late blues singer Bobby "Blue" Bland,
carried the latest iteration of King's famous guitar "Lucille."
Thousands lined the streets to pay their last respects. His body was
then driven down Route 61 to his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.