Some years ago I was emotionally taken apart by the release of The Beatles 'Free as a Bird', a sound I thought I'd never hear again and freely admit that I cried like a baby, not just once, it lasted days...every time I heard it.
That was love, nostalgia and a pure delight that whisked me back to better days when I and the whole world during the 60's had lived our lives with these guys as our standard bearers, it was a great natural high. It was also only natural that I should have felt some pain.
Last month we lost a GIANT of a man, a man whose very presence would make you quiver with respect, a man whose blood oozed soul and who could, with a few notes from his beautiful and gifted hands, transport you to the very depths of sadness or give you an uplifting warmth, the like of which could normally only be experienced by high flying eagles. It made me shed a tear because I loved the mans music.
He was of course the wonderful Mr B B King
His influence on my, and thousands of others musical journeys, along with Big Bill Broonzy, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas, Chuck Berry, and later Eric Clapton, Peter Green and more of those other early guitarists was immense. Of course you could learn all the notes but to try to master the feel of the music in your own soul came at the price of blood, sweat and tears combined with unending hours of practise and the desire to recreate the feeling that BB could express in a few notes. Nobody really did it better than he.
Born in Mississippi to a family of cotton pickers, which was
surely enough of a daily grind to simply survive, for him and most poor people there was no future, no way out. He had started to listen to his mothers records of Blind Lemon Jefferson, finding in those bluesy lyrics a resemblance to his poverty ridden life. He started playing in his teenage years and was known as Blues Boy King which in turn simply got abbreviated to BB.
The Thrill is Gone is his probably his best known song but
his discography is simply amazing.
His life was long, a respectable 89 years old and he was playing right up to 2014.
At the time of his death he had already been a living legend for many years and his influence on all of the greatest musicians in the world of Blues and Rock music, is practically unmatched and on the day he went I shed a few tears and played every recording I had of his, more than once.
It was truly a day of mixed feelings, grateful for his life and music and desperately sad at his departure.
BB King was the leader in his field, 'The Man'
whose career had roller-coasted through life but for me he was always the one I wanted to hear again and again.
During the over-indulgent, crap years of prog rock and poetry he became almost ignored and even hated, during an interview, he recalled playing at a Festival where he was announced to the huge crowd who booed him when he took to the stage, can you imagine that?? The world had truly lost it's head. His performance that day won the audience over, such was the music and fight in the man.
It can only go on for so long and his last string of concerts in 2014 were not his best and got some pretty bad reviews. Illness then saw him off the road, but during his lifetime it is estimated that he did over 15000 Concerts and I'm pretty sure that all but a handful were just pure genius. It was such a shame that he had to go out on such a low note.
His trademark guitar was his black Gibson Stereo called Lucille it was not named after some awful break up with his greatest love but rather named after a girl whose two boyfriends got into a fight over her affections and during that fight knocked over a kerosene lamp that set fire to the hall where King was on stage playing. He was evacuated but ran back in to the blazing building to get his guitar, he called all his guitars Lucille after that, no matter what the make, to remind himself not to get into scrapes like that with girls.
He gave one these guitars to the Pope, which really tops Noel Gallagher giving a Strat to " Call me Tony" Blair by a country mile. I'm pretty sure that the meaning of the name Lucille was not lost on the Pontiff. It was reported the Pope couldn't master the vibrato technique so called it a day on the gig front but the stage name "Yer Man and The Cardinals" had been mooted.
Some of you sharper eyed specimens might have noticed that there five hands in this photo, spooky or what?
There is something to be grateful for in this techno ridden world and that is there are many, many recordings of his performances that will be preserved forever thank goodness.
BB wrote his autobiography 'Blues All Around Me" first printed in 1996. It's a good read and I recommend it.
Some brilliant Youtube clips exist. Two of my faves I recommend to you are "Let the Good Times Roll" with Jules Holland Big Band and his entire performance at Cook County Jail but especially "How Blue Can you Get"
which you can link to below, the man at his very best:
Back to the Brumbeat news next month....
Love the one your with,