B.B. King Dead at 89, Artists React
King, who was diagnosed with diabetes 30 years ago, had been in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, after he was hospitalized in April due to dehydration. According to Billboard, King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40PM PT on Thursday (May 14).
For over six decades, King was known as the “King of the Blues” for his world-weary voice and wailing guitar licks that he played on his Gibson guitar that he affectionately called “Lucille.” His guitar playing influenced many well-known rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton and the late Jimi Hendrix.
Born Riley B. King on a plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi, on Sept. 16 1925, he started playing the guitar as a youth on street corners to earn money. In 1947, he traveled to Memphis to pursue a music career and got his big break while performing on bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson’s radio program on KWEM in 1948. As his popularity grew he was nicknamed Blues Boy King, which he eventually shortened to B.B. King.
In 1949, his first recordings, "Miss Martha King/Take a Swing with Me" and "How Do You Feel When Your Baby Packs Up and Goes/I've Got the Blues," were big hits on radio. But his first hit single came in 1951 with "Three O'clock Blues," which stay at the top of the charts for four months.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, King released a string of top 10 singles. One of his most successful tunes came in 1970 with "The Thrill Is Gone," which reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The classic blues song earned him his first Grammy award for Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 1970.
Throughout the years, King has won 15 Grammies, including one for his 2009 album One Kind Favor, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and was feted during the 1995 Kennedy Center Honors. He was also the subject of a 2012 documentary titled B.B. King: The Life of Riley, which was narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Upon hearing the sad news of B.B. King’s passing, musicians took to Twitter to remember the blues icon. You can read some of their tweets below.
We want to send out condolences to the family and friends of B.B. King. He was a wonderful ambassador of the blues and he will be sorely missed.
May he rest eternally in peace.
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