I read the news today on Facebook over my bowl of Life cereal…the King of the Blues, B.B. King, is dead, and music will never be the same. I can’t stop tearing up, listening to Pay the Cost to Be the Boss, or Why I Sing the Blues. Let me just tell you how this man’s music changed my life.
B.B. King was one of those artists I didn’t know well at all, but was introduced to thanks to the 1996 release of Primitive Radio Gods’ mesmerizing, Standing in a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand with its sample of B.B. singing, “I’ve been downhearted, baby, ever since the day we met” piercing the start of the song. I wanted to hear more of that voice! That voice that sounds so heartfelt…beautiful…full of pain. I didn’t actually get to hear How Blue Can You Get until I was home visiting my folks in the summer of 1996. One night, I took my Mom’s car to get her a Tim’s coffee. Sudbury’s rock station, Q92, had a Blues hour Saturday nights and it was this particular night, they played the Primitive Radio Gods’ song, followed by B.B. King’s How Blue Can You Get. I was intrigued by B.B.’s song and was taken in instantly. At that point in my 20s, I was soaking in new music like a sponge, but hadn’t really discovered the Blues as a musical genre. That short trip to Tim Hortons gave me a little taste, and I swore I’d look more into B.B. King in the future.
My husband, Kevin, was the one who got me into listening to the Blues more regularly. Out of all of the Blues artists, it was B.B. King’s music that dug into me the most. The way he would make his guitar, Lucille, sing…the soulful way he’d hit the notes, and the stories he would tell in his songs…B.B.’s songs would follow me, uplift me when I was feeling down, make me smile when least expected it, and hold me close to my heart at the RIGHT TIMES. There is something about B.B. King’s music that feeds my soul. I gush about Duran Duran and INXS, but they’re a passing fancy compared to Mr. B.B. King. He really is THE SHIT.
Now I must go on without him!
My husband and I were able to see B.B. at the Molson Amphitheater in Toronto in 2001. I will always cherish that concert. He announced to the audience that he was going to perform seated, because he was getting old and Lucille didn’t mind as long as the audience didn’t. And of course we didn’t. Do what you have to do, B.B.! You got the stage! That night it was hot, and B.B. was on fire! The concert finished just in time for a wicked thunderstorm to come rolling in from Lake Ontario, soaking us through our clothes as we ran to the car. What a night! It saddens me to think I’ll never get to see him in concert again.
The King of the Blues is dead. Long live the Blues! No one was like B.B. King. His style of guitar play is incomparable.
Where do the Blues go from here? Does Kanye know who B.B. King was? Ariana Grande will probably cover one of his songs without asking who originally wrote it. [Cough]
B.B.’s legacy in music lives on, and thankfully I can listen to his formidable creations when I feel downhearted.
R.I.P. B.B. King…How blue can you get…