For those of us who live and breath music, it is with great sadness to learn about the passing of B.B. King. The King of the Blues passed away in his sleep at the age of 89, leaving behind an irreplaceable legacy in American music. He lived an incredible life, growing up in rural Southern poverty as the son of a cotton sharecropper in Mississippi before buying a guitar and moving to Memphis in 1946. He won a Grammy Award in 1970 for the blue standard that he turned into a classic, “The Thrill Is Gone.” Heck, the man performed in AT LEAST 100 concerts a year well into his 80s, while famously suffering from diabetes.
If you never got a chance to see B.B. King live, you have no idea what you missed.
There are a gazillion tributes that will be written about King’s influence on blues music and American culture at large over the next few weeks. All I can think about, though, is some concert footage from a 2012 show at the Hollywood Bowl that went viral on Reddit a couple months back. It’s a video of B.B. King sharing the stage with three musicians of a much younger generation, all undeniably influenced by King’s style of guitar blues: Derek Trucks, his wife Susan Tedeschi, and John Mayer, who can shred a guitar despite the the man whose claim to fame is “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and dating Katy Perry.
If you aren’t familiar with Derek Trucks, you need to know that (A. he is a Jedi master of modern blues guitar playing (… on the same Mt. Rushmore as Jimmy Herring and Warren Haynes, respectively) and (B. a Derek Trucks guitar solo can serenade Lucifer himself to tears. B.B. King has probably heard 10 million guitar solos over the course of his life, but this particular solo during this particular performance at the Hollywood Bowl moved him to the point of a visceral reaction — The old school bluesman almost gets misty-eyed at the way Trucks melt his heart.
King’s reaction is wonderful to watch. The student has become the master and the master couldn’t possibly be more proud.
My takeaway? Remember your influences, folks, and make them bubbly with pride.
RIP, B.B. King. The great gig in the sky just got a little greater.
Here’s part II:
today is the day reddit has discovered what us heads have known for years. pic.twitter.com/p1VCOa0Jhd
— Brandon Wenerd (@brandonwenerd) March 12, 2015