B.B. King is Dead
B.B. King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname King of the Blues, died late Thursday at home in Las Vegas. He was 89. His attorney, Brent Bryson, told The Associated Press that King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. PDT. He said funeral arrangements were underway. Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg confirmed the death. Although he had continued to perform well into his 80s, the 15-time Grammy Award winner suffered from diabetes and had been in declining health during the past year. He collapsed during a concert in Chicago last October, later blaming dehydration and exhaustion. He had been in hospice care at his Las Vegas home. He had 15 biological and adopted children. Family members say 11 survive. King's eldest surviving daughter, Shirley King, said she was upset that she didn't have a chance to see her father before he died. In the late 1960s, King -- born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925 -- helped usher in a blues revival among baby boomers, who idolized his soulful blues, making hits out of "The Thrill is Gone." He was one of the most visible icons of the blues for decades. But while he was unknown until then to white audiences, King had already been a rhythm and blues star on the chitlin' circuit for years, since 1951. For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, B. B. King was not only the undisputed king of the blues but a mentor to scores of guitarists, who included Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards. He recorded more than 50 albums and toured the world well into his 80s, often performing 250 or more concerts a year. He played a Gibson guitar he affectionately called Lucille with a style that included beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes. His style was unusual. King didn't like to sing and play at the same time, so he developed a call-and-response between him and Lucille. A preacher uncle taught him to play, and he honed his technique in abject poverty in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues.
Sidebar: President Obama issued this statement on King's passing: "The blues has lost its king, and America has lost a legend. B.B. King was born a sharecropper's son in Mississippi, came of age in Memphis, Tennessee, and became the ambassador who brought his all-American music to his country and the world. No one worked harder than B.B. No one inspired more up-and-coming artists. No one did more to spread the gospel of the blues. Three years ago, Michelle and I hosted a blues concert at the White House. I hadn't expected that I'd be talked into singing a few lines of 'Sweet Home Chicago' with B.B. by the end of the night, but that was the kind of effect his music had, and still does. He gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving, he gets you doing the things you probably shouldn't do - but will always be glad you did. B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever. And there's going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight"