It took me a day to write this. I’ve spent the last several hours trying to think of something to write that would capture my feelings. A difficult week ended with tragic news. A dear friend, a King among men… has left us.
It’s a sad day for us here at the studio. We just got the word that BB has passed.
BB died peacefully, in his bed, in his sleep after decades of making us laugh and cry and literally beg the Big Guy Up There to make us guitarists that could be good enough to stand on stage with BB.
BB and Eric (Clapton) convinced me that I needed a 335. Then, they taunted me as I struggled to stand in their shadows with it. LOL!
BB told me once that playing was about feeling; “Shake that wrist. Play from your heart and let you soul sing!” He reminded me constantly that; “You can’t play it wrong, you just have to play it YOUR way…”
Despite many claims, BB King wasn’t a “showman”. He just waltzed onstage and then played. He didn’t HAVE to show off. He just grabbed that guitar by the neck and strangled it until it did what he wanted it to do. That axe was just an extension of his heart. That axe was his soul’s microphone.
From personal experience, BB was the sweetest Axe Man there ever was. Kind to a fault, always with something nice to say, always ready to share and even SHOW you how to tackle something new or difficult. Even when he was in pain, the smile on his face could warm your heart and make you want to be a better player. When he walked into the room, you knew that you had to be on your “A” Game.
From Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson on down, all the way to my friends Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton, the great blues men proved that it is the journey, the story and the soul that matters most. It’s the phrasing, the spaces between the notes… the call and response… and BB did it with his most beloved of lovers… Lucille, his guitar.
Unlike Rock or Jazz… Blues is no reason for a party… it is a baring of the soul.
BB’s passing isn’t about the death of a legend, it’s about the gift he gave us… the generous baring of his heart and soul for all of us to see and hear. And BB did it like few others.
From all across the Universe, people are mourning the passing of the King;
The “King of the Blues”, guitarist and singer BB King, has died aged 89.
King, known for his hits My Lucille, Sweet Little Angel and Rock Me Baby, died in his sleep in Las Vegas.
Born in Mississippi, King began performing in the 1940s, going on to influence a generation of musicians, and working with Eric Clapton and U2.
Once ranked as the third greatest guitarist of all time, he had been suffering ill health in recent months.
He was recently taken to hospital with a diabetes-related illness.
Fellow musicians paid tribute to King including blues guitarist Buddy Guy, who often played with him.
“BB King was the greatest guy I ever met,” he wrote on Instagram. “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 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.”
Lenny Kravitz who tweeted: “BB, anyone could play a thousand notes and never say what you said in one.”
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora added: “My friend and legend 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.”
Actor Hugh Laurie said: “Oh God. BB King. Let the sad times roll.”
And singer Will Young added: “BB King- the most wonderful blues singer and guitarist. I suggest everyone gets one of his records to hear true soul and spirit.”
A former farmhand, King was awarded his 15th Grammy award in 2009 for his album One Kind Favor.
He was also inducted into both the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rolling Stone magazine placed him behind only Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Until recently, King performed in at least 100 concerts a year.
He fused together both jazz and blues on his beloved guitar, a Gibson ES-355 he lovingly dubbed “Lucille”.
In the early part of his career, he played to exclusively black audiences, but his heartfelt vocals and undeniable talent saw him embraced by a much broader fanbase as time went on – touring Europe and topping the charts.
Younger musicians such as Clapton and Steve Miller, who admired his work, introduced him to a new generation of fans in the late ’60s with hits like “The Thrill is Gone”.
Albums such as Live at County Cook Jail and BB King in London followed.
At the turn of the millennium, aged 75, he once again achieved major commercial success with the Eric Clapton collaboration Riding With the King.
“King’s is now the name most synonymous with the blues, much as Louis Armstrong’s once was with jazz,” critic Francis Davis wrote in his 1995 book The History of the Blues. “You don’t have to be a blues fan to have heard of BB King.”
BBC © 2015
BB didn’t leave us. We’ll hear him… see him every time one of his legacy of songs crosses our paths. We’ll remember him for who he was… a kind, gentle soul with a guitar bigger than a continent. Rest well, BB, we’ll be reunited soon.
Until then, just do what you do… and make the angels weep with joy as they listen to you…