Legendary blues guitarist, singer and songwriter BB King has died aged 89.
Attorney Brent Bryson said his client died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas.
King took the blues from rural juke joints to the mainstream and influenced a generation of rock guitarists from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
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King will always be linked with the Gibson guitars he named Lucille.
He was born Riley B King on September 16, 1925 in Mississippi to sharecroppers but was raised by his grandmother.
BB King’s greatest hits
- Paying the Cost to Be the Boss
- Why I Sing the Blues
- The Thrill Is Gone
- To Know You Is to Love You
- When Love Comes to Town
- Miss Martha King
- Three O’Clock Blues
- Please Love Me
- You Upset Me Baby
- Sweet Sixteen
- Rock Me Baby
- How Blue Can You Get
- Every Day I Have the Blues
- Sweet Little Angel
- Don’t Answer the Door
- Nobody Loves Me But My Mother
- Ain’t Nobody Home
As a child, King sang in a gospel choir and bought his first guitar at the age of 12.
King was well-known for When Love Comes to Town and Since I Met You Baby.
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His on-air nickname was “the Blues Boy”, soon shortened to the snappier BB King.
He outlived all his fellow post-World War II blues greats – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker – to see the rough music born in the cotton fields of the segregated South reach a new audience.
“Being a blues singer is like being black twice,” King wrote in his autobiography, Blues All Around Me, of the lack of respect the music got compared to rock and jazz.
“While the civil rights movement was fighting for the respect of black people, I felt I was fighting for the respect of the blues.”
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King went from touring black bars and dance halls in the 1940s and ’50s to headlining an all-blues show at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1970 and recording with the likes of Clapton and U2 in the ’90s.
King had a deep, resonant singing voice and, despite having what he called “stupid fingers”, an immediately recognisable guitar sound.
His unique style of trilling the strings with a fluttering left-hand vibrato, which he called it “the butterfly”, helped shape early rock.
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He delivered stinging single-note licks that brimmed with emotion and were copied by white rock guitarists including Jeff Beck and Bonnie Raitt.
King was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the 1980s.
He was hospitalised in April for a few days after suffering from dehydration related to the disease.
King posted on Facebook in May that he was in hospice care at his home.
Eight facts about BB King
- As a disc jockey on a Memphis, Tennessee, radio station, he became known as “The Beale Street Blues Boy,” which was shortened to “Blues Boy” and eventually to “BB”
- King was playing a dance in Twist, Arkansas, when two men began fighting over a woman and accidentally set the dance hall ablaze. King had to dash back in to save his guitar, which he began calling Lucille, the name of the woman who inspired the fight
- King’s primary guitar teacher was his cousin, bluesman Bukka White
- In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time ranked King as number three, behind Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman
- In 1956 King and his band performed 342 one-night stands
- King greatly expanded his fan base to jazz, folk and rock audiences in 1967, playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and the Fillmore West in San Francisco
- King’s 10,000th show came on April 17, 2006, at his namesake nightclub in New York. He performed despite having buried his son, who died of cancer, the day before
- King appeared on the television shows Sanford and Son, The Young and the Restless, The Cosby Show, Married … With Children, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sesame Street.
— Royal Graffiti (@royalgraffiti22) May 15, 2015
Today the music world lost a very special man. BB King.. You are gone, but never forgotten https://t.co/23FHyaFzza
— Adam Brezak (@AdamBrezak) May 15, 2015
– with AAP, ABC/Reuters