A great talent and a great human being moved on to somewhere else this past Thursday. We knew this day would come eventually, yet B.B. King’s passing nonetheless leaves a huge hole in our hearts.
You could pick out dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of memorable performances (the man toured almost constantly, playing more than 300 dates a year into his 80s), and I wouldn’t even try to pick out The One. I first heard his music when I bought his 1970 album, “Indianola, Mississippi Seeds,” his 18th studio album, and even today, all I need to do is hear that aching piano (that’s him playing) that opens the album with “Nobody Loves Me But My Mother,” or the swelling strings swinging into “Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore” and I can feel my spirit lift.
His playing could be fiery or sweet or bone-chillingly sad, and it was unfailingly brilliant. You could hear songs like his signature tune “How Blue Can You Get” over and over and they would never sound like he was going through the motions.
I only heard him live a couple of times, but I did get the chance to interview him for my radio program back in 1981 when he came to Burlington, Vt. He played the Flynn theater, and we talked a little before the show. He was every inch a gentleman and quite funny. Later, he led us around the corner to Hunt’s, the legendary Burlington music club, where he walked in around midnight and took the stage next to Big Joe Burrell, who had been one of his sidemen. What a night.
There are touching eulogies all over. Here are a few:
And an interview on PBS:
For myself, I will just recommend listening to the album he thought was his most significant artistic achievement:
Love, Peace, and Deepest Thanks for all you gave us, Mr. King.