Legendary B.B. King, who managed to bring his music from rural juke joints to the mainstream inspiring a whole generation of talented guitarists from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, has died in Las Vegas at the age of 89.
News of King’s death, was confirmed on Thursday on a Facebook page linked to the website of his daughter Claudette. The post triggered shockwaves across social media, with blues, rock and country music stars sending their tribute.
The blues legend was taken to hospital last month where he spent a few days after suffering from dehydration related to Type 2 diabetes. In May he took to Facebook to notify his fans that he was in hospice care at his home.
B.B. King was born on a plantation to sharecropper parents, he outlived his post-World War Two blues peers – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker – to see the rough music born in the cotton fields of the segregated South reach a new audience.
“Being a blues singer is like being black twice,” King wrote in his autobiography, “Blues All Around Me,” of the lack of respect the music got compared with rock and jazz.”
“While the civil rights movement was fighting for the respect of black people, I felt I was fighting for the respect of the blues,” he added.
Chicago blues veteran Buddy Guy described King as “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… it was all new to the whole guitar playin’ world…,” Guy wrote in a posting on Instagram. “I promise I will keep these damn blues alive.”
Rocker Bryan Adams said on Twitter that King was “one of the best blues guitarists ever, maybe the best. He could do more on one note than anyone.”
Rapper Snoop Dogg, rocker Lenny Kravitz, Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, former Beatle Ringo Starr and U.S. country singer Brad Paisley were among others who posted tributes to the passed away musician.
“Playing on a Gibson ES-355 guitar he lovingly named Lucille, King would weave a musical tapestry of heartfelt soul and pain that masterfully fused elements of blues and jazz. These passionate sounds would not only enrapture audiences but influence many other artists, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix,” The Huffington Post writes.
“When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody,” King told reporters back in 2006. “I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling.”
King’s life was chronicled in the 2012 documentary, “The Life Of Riley,” which was narrated by Morgan Freeman and featured Aaron Neville, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Willis, Carlos Santana, George Benson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ringo Starr, Slash and Susan Tedeschi. He also told his own tale in the autobiography, “Blues All Around Me.”
“B.B. King taps into something universal,” Clapton told The Los Angeles Times in 2005. “He can’t be confined to any one genre. That’s why I’ve called him a ‘global musician.’”