“When I do eventually drop, I pray to God that it will happen in one of three ways. Firstly, on stage or leaving the stage, then secondly in my sleep. And the third way? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself!” ~BB King
He got his wish. He passed away sometime in the night, in his sleep.
Heaven is filled with more great music today. BB King, one of the best blues man and entertainer in my lifetime has passed away at 89.
He was a master of the bluesyand one of the most respected musical figures of the 20th century, In early October, the tireless bluesman, who in 1956 he performed more than 300 times, but was forced to cancel the remainder of his tour when he got sick after performing at the House of Blues in Chicago. Two weeks ago he entered home hospice care. The“King of the Blues” had lived with type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years. During that time, he used his celebrity to raise awareness about the disease that tragically took the lives of his mother and one of his daughters.
He is survived by two ex-wives, 15 children and 50 grandchildren, it is his unique, guitar playing and his amazing blend of the blues with other musical styles that are his legacy.
On September 16, 1925, Riley B. King was born to sharecropper parents in Mississippi. His love and passion for music came early on through his exposure to gospel music while attending church
He became a dedicated member of the choir, finding his singing voice and even learning rudimentary guitar from the church’s reverend. But it was around the age of 7 that King was first exposed to the blues by his great aunt, who played him blues records by some of the best, that lead him to a lifelong love affair with the blues.
King owned one of the world’s most famous guitars, “Lucille.”
After the passing of his mother and grandmother, King tried to make ends meet through cotton farming but soon found he could earn more than twice as much money singing and playing guitar on the street corners of Indianola.
King education in the blues began when he stayed with his cousin, blues musician Bukka White, who took King under his wing and when he wasn’t practicing on his own guitar, he watched other bluesmen perform.
Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on the black-run KWEM landed King a regular slot at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, where he performed six nights a week.
King was eventually given a regular slot on a Memphis radio station. During his time there, he tried on a new radio name, Beale Street Blues Boy, which he later shortened to Blues Boy King, before choosing B.B. It was at this point that King’s began to be a star.
B.B. King made his first recording, and the following year he signed with RPM Records. “Three O’Clock Blues” was released at the end of 1951, and in 1952 the song became a huge hit, topping Billboard’s R&B charts for five weeks straight.
King’s popularity sent him on his first national tour, for which he assembled a band, much like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, whose work he admired.
BB Kinga never looked back and spent his life on the road. A nonstop schedule of performances followed, and King’s successes, including the #1 R&B hits “Story from My Heart and Soul” and “Please Love Me”, along with other top-20 R&B singles between 1952 and 1955.
King became unhappy with the terms of his contract with RIM, who he blamed for his inability to reach mainstream audiences. King signed with ABC-Paramount and hired new management.
For the next few years, he recorded some of his best albums, most notably Live at the Regal in 1965. Three years later, B.B. King finally made the breakthrough he had so exhaustingly pursued. King was shocked to tears when on June 6 of that year he walked onstage at the Fillmore West to a standing ovation from a mostly white crowd.
An awareness of the blues and its integration with rock music of the era opened the door for him, and he fully embraced his role as the “Ambassador of the Blues,” and never looked back.
B.B. King played the blues at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 6, 1969.
career began to soar.
In 1969, he opened for the Rolling Stones on their American concerts and also appeared on The Tonight Show for the first time. He performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching an estimated 50 million viewers.
His song “The Thrill Is Gone,” reached #3 on the R&B charts and #15 on the charts, earning him the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. This was the beginning of 50 years of awards and honors.
After his next decade of touring and recording, the first B.B. King biography, “Arrival of B.B. King”, was released by Doubleday. Next, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In the ’90s he opened a chain of B.B. King nightclub-restaurants. He received the Presidential Medal of the Arts in, the Medal of Freedom and honorary degrees from Yale, Brown and the Berklee College of Music. Then the B.B. King Museum opened in Memphis, and in 2009 he won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album, his 15th Grammy in all, making him the winningest musician in the blues category.
President George W. Bush presented B.B. King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington D.C. on December 15, 2006.
As well as his contributions to the fight against diabetes, B.B. King establishment a foundation dedicated to improving prison conditions, and Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit that supplies musical instruments to schools in underprivileged areas. His contributions to music in the 20th century and beyond are immeasurable.
You will be missed greatly, Mr. King.
See you tomorrow.
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