Saturday 16 May, 2015

The Most Important Man In Rock n Roll : Blues Boy King


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October 5th 2014 B.B. King cancelled his remaining 8 tour dates due to illness, yesterday he passed away in his sleep at the the grand age of 89. The world famous singer and guitarist, who began life on a plantation in Mississippi and was universally acclaimed as one of the best blues musicians of all […]


October 5th 2014 B.B. King cancelled his remaining 8 tour dates due to illness, yesterday he passed away in his sleep at the the grand age of 89.

The world famous singer and guitarist, who began life on a plantation in Mississippi and was universally acclaimed as one of the best blues musicians of all time. King is celebrated for bringing the raw music of the cotton fields in the segregated south of America to a global audience, and inspiring guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan. At 89, he outlived blues contemporaries including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker.Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time ranked him third in 2003, behind only Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman.

He learned the guitar as a boy, and after army service during the second world war busked to earn money, hitchhiking to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1947 where he was taught by, and played blues guitar with, his cousin Bukka White. From touring black bars and dance halls in his early career, he would end up headlining at New York’s Carnegie Hall, recording with the likes of Clapton and U2, with whom he collaborated on the 1989 track When Love Comes to Town.

At the height of his career he was touring the world with his trademark Gibson guitars and performing 300 nights in a year.

King won 15 Grammys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

BB King was that rare thing – a game-changer who was also beloved. Asked about the blues, he said: “I am trying to get people to see that we are our brother’s keeper. Red, white, black, brown or yellow, rich or poor, we all have the blues.”

He complained in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me, of the lack of respect blues music got in comparison with rock and jazz. King wrote: “Being a blues singer is like being black twice. While the civil rights movement was fighting for the respect of black people, I felt I was fighting for the respect of the blues.”

 Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, David Bowie, John Mayall, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones all kick started their careers on Eel Pie Island. B.B King also graced Eel Pie Island with his presence while on tour in the UK and inspired generations of musicians particularly those in Rock n Roll.

 

‘Live in Cook County Jail’ (1971)

 

 If you want to hear everything a B.B. King guitar performance can be, you may as well start here. After whipping through his customary show-opener, “Every Day I Have the Blues,” with breakneck impatience, King lays into “How Blue Can You Get?” As befits the show’s jailhouse setting, King’s guitar is occasionally at its most abrasive. To begin “3 O’Clock Blues,” he cuts off his conversational patter with a sharp, percussive, violent chord. And he turns in a definitive live version of “The Thrill Is Gone” that’s both searing and soaring.

 

‘Live in Japan’ (1971)

In 1971, King recorded one of his finest live albums, Live in Cook County Jail; and one of his most disappointing, Live in London, a collaboration with British bluesmen and rockers that never gets cooking. A third 1971 recording, Live in Japan, went unreleased in the U.S. until 1999, and here you can hear King spread out a little more than on those contemporary live recordings. Extended, largely instrumental workouts like “Niji Baby,” “Hikari #88” and the nine-minute “Japanese Boogie,” showcase a looser and jammier side of King that’s less frequently documented.

B.B. King and Bobby Bland, ‘Together for the First Time. . .Live’ (1974)

Onetime rivals for R&B supremacy, the two blues greats hit the road together in the Seventies, where they soon discovered how well their styles complemented one another while bantering with expert comic timing. “Nothing is planned tonight,” King announces early in this hour-long set, and whether or not that was true there’s a spontaneous but never sloppy spark. It’s instructive and exciting to hear King’s guitar supporting another vocalist, particularly a master such as Bland. They continued to tour together regularly and released the second, far less exciting Together Again. . .Live in 1976.

 

‘Live in Africa ’74’ (1991)

The “Rumble in the Jungle” — the legendary 1974 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman boxing match in Zaire, documented in the film When We Were Kings — was accompanied by a three-day music festival, at which King was one of the headliners. Playing with members of his touring ensemble and a couple of the Crusaders, the band had been partying in Kinshasa for days by the night of their gig (“clothing was deemed optional, hedonism ruled, Caligula was an amateur,” pianist Ron Levy later recalled). By the time they hit the stage, though, they were in top form, updating King’s greatest hits with a touch of the era’s smooth funk.

 

Complied by; RollingStone.com, Consuela Mckenzie at Unifunk and Caroline Davies at The Guardian.

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