The King of the Blues’, as he was nicknamed for his notable contribution to the genre, bid adieu to the world at the age of 89. B.B. King’s voice and his dear guitar raised him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the global stage and the apex of blues.
The “Sweet black angel” singer died in his sleep in his house here.
King sold millions of records worldwide and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was awarded his 15th Grammy in 2009 in the traditional blues album category for the album “One Kind Favor”.
King’s eldest surviving daughter, Shirley, said she was upset she didn’t have a chance to see her father before he died, reports theguardian.com.
King performed even when he was in his 80s, even though he suffered from diabetes and his health had been declining over the past year. He had collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later citing dehydration and exhaustion. King had been in hospice case at his home.
In a career that spanned nearly 70 years, King mentored leading guitarists including Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards. He recorded more than 50 albums, touring the world and often performing 250 or more concerts a year.
He played a Gibson guitar, which he affectionately called Lucille. King’s unique playing style comprised beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes.
“Sometimes I just think that there are more things to be said, to make the audience understand what I’m trying to do more… When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody. I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling,” King had said in 2006.
His fans would admit living that magic.
Born on September 16, 1925, King was raised by his grandmother after his parents separated and his mother died. A preacher uncle taught King to play, and he honed his technique while living in abject poverty in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues.
“I’ve always tried to defend the idea that the blues doesn’t have to be sung by a person who comes from Mississippi, as I did. People all over the world have problems. And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die,” he said in the 1988 book “Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music”.
As a youngster, he picked cotton on tenant farms around Indianola, Mississippi, being paid as little as 35 cents for every 100 pounds, and was still working off share-cropping debts after he got out of the army during the second world war.
“He goes back far enough to remember the sound of field hollers and the cornerstone blues figures, like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson,” ace guitarist Billy Gibbons once told Rolling Stone magazine.
He became popular among young rock fans in the 1960s with albums such as “Live at the regal”. He further expanded his audience with a 1968 appearance at the Newport folk festival and when he opened shows for the Rolling Stones in 1969.
Through it all, King modestly insisted he was simply maintaining a tradition.
“I’m just one who carried the baton because it was started long before me,” he said in 2008.
When he wasn’t recording, King toured relentlessly, playing 342 one-night performances in 1956. After he turned 80, he vowed to cut back on his performances, and he did, to about 100 shows a year.
King’s personal life saw him getting married twice and divorced. He is survived by 11 children with various partners.