So Long, B.B. King

B.B. King – Why I Sing the Blues
I almost saw B.B. King live once. He came to town a couple years ago and I was thiiiiiiiis close to buying tickets. I ultimately didn’t because the weekend was looking a little too full of things I couldn’t get out of to make it work, but looking back now, it totally could have. I’ve been kicking myself over that ever since, but I also held out some hope that maybe I’d get a chance to make it right because even though he was getting on up there, he still did a fair bit of touring. Well, I don’t have to kick myself anymore. Instead, I get to regret my dumb decision forever.

B.B. King, the larger-than-life guitarist and singer who helped popularize electric blues and brought it to audiences for more than six decades, died Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89. King, who was diagnosed with diabetes nearly 30 years ago, was hospitalized last month due to dehydration. Last October, he was forced to cancel eight tour dates for dehydration and exhaustion. His attorney, Brent Bryson, confirmed his death to the Associated Press.

That’s Lucille, a song he wrote about his guitar. He called all of his guitars Lucille, and the story of why is one of the most blues things ever. It has everything. A small southern town nobody’s ever heard of, an old bar, a woman, fighting, fire and depending on which telling of it you hear, death.

One night in 1949, King was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, when two men started fighting over a woman named Lucille and set the club on fire by knocking over the kerosene stove. The place was evacuated, but King rushed back inside to retrieve his guitar, which he dubbed Lucille. Despite being married twice, King has said that Lucille was his true love, and he called every guitar he owned after that Lucille as well. “‘Lucille’ is real,” King once wrote. “When I play her, it’s almost like hearing words, and of course, naturally I hear cries. I’d be playing sometimes as I’d play, it seems like it almost has a conversation with me. It tells you something. It communicates with me.”

I haven’t had much use for U2 since around the mid 90s, but had it not been for something they did in the 80s it probably would have taken me a lot longer to discover B.B. King. Before then, the only blues names I knew were Stevie Ray Vaughan and Colin James. I kinda liked them, and figuring out more about the dude with the strange voice who was important enough to sing with U2 made me decide that there might be something to this blues stuff and maybe I should listen to it. Now of course I know it was the other way around and that U2 was lucky enough to get him, but I was 9. Give me a break.

You know, had they dumped something half this good into everyone’s iTunes last year there wouldn’t have been nearly as much complaining.

Speaking of B.B. Guesting on things, remember this?

I suppose he didn’t technically guest on it since it was just a sample, but for a while there there was no escaping this song. The line that keeps getting repeated, “I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met” comes from the song How Blue Can You Get? Given how popular that song got, I’m a little surprised how many people don’t know that and how little it gets mentioned.

I could sit here listening to B.B. King songs all day, but I’ll keep it to one more. Riding With The King.

The song that reminded us that blues playing Eric Clapton is the best Eric Clapton and that B.B. King is just the best, period.

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