B.B. King was born at a Mississippi cotton plantation, but when he passed away three years ago today, he was the King of the Blues. He could make his guitar, Lucille, sing with the sweetest, warmest, most soulful voice. You could identify him with the first note he played, his sound was that distinctive. His voice was just as powerful an instrument: strong and from the very depths of his soul. It didn’t matter whether he was singing or Lucille was, every note overflowed with emotion and feeling.
“There’s a sadness to all kinds of music if you want to hear it. There’s also happiness to it if you want to hear it.” -BB King
“…There’s always happiness to it if you want to hear it.” That, I think, is B.B. King’s music in a nutshell. Yes, it was the Blues. Yes, he sang about hard times and troubles, about trouble in life and love, but so often he played and sang with positive, uplifting feeling. He tugged at your heartstrings, but he also made you feel better, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what the blues is supposed to do? He’s without a doubt my favorite bluesman.
If you’re not a fan of B.B. King and want to hear what I’m talking about, I’ll suggest four albums; three are live albums and one is a studio album. To me, live is where B.B. King was at his best and these three albums, to me, are his best at different stages of his career: Live at the Regal (1965), Live in Japan (1971), and Live at the BBC (late 70s/early 80s, early 90s/late 90s). Live in Japan also shows his instrumental side. My favorite studio album is Indianola Mississippi Seeds (1970), which has two of my favorite B.B. King songs: “Hummingbird,” with its soaring, uplifting, gospel-like ending and “Chains and Things,” a deep, haunting, dirge of a blues song.