Saturday, May 30, 2015


Temecula, CA – Yesterday, amid rain befitting a funeral day, Riley B. King, better known as B.B. was laid to rest after a sunny day of public viewing. King was 89 when he died May 14 in Las Vegas. At his request, his body was returned to his native Mississippi for a final homecoming. Already some kin are starting to squabble over his estimated 33M worth. What fools.
King's body is moved following the public viewing period
 As anyone who saw last year's film doc on B.B. King 'The Life of Riley' narrated by Morgan Freeman knows, B.B.'s life wasn't tragic like Ray Charles or as flamboyant as James Brown, but it was steady. Staying not only within the 'color confines' of black music, B.B. stayed true to playing the blues, a music genre with a fringe demo outside of R'n'B, and more what your parents listened to, if they were working class and very pedestrian, aka, got drunk.
The blues is just that, music about how a woman/man is giving you the short stick, and you have put your woes to tune. B.B. wasn't the first to play the blues of course, but he did wind up being probably the most successful at it thanks to a great blues voice and Lucille. As I recall from seeing the picture, B.B. Struck me as being more in line with Morgan Freeman's character in Driving Miss Daisy, artistically rather than racially. By perfecting his craft, not being a drama king, or controversial [crossing the color barrier in any way or marrying his 13 year old cousin], B.B. stayed in the middle of the pool deep end and blossomed through his talent, much as a white performer would. Of course he wasn't a choir boy, being a touring musician.

When King got renown enough, the white world came looking for him. By this time the blues had broken out of a 'black only' genre, but like gospel/Christian music was separated into black and white. The 'breakout hit' was The Thrill Is Gone, a simple enough title explaining a man's feelings toward his woman at the end of their relationship. The earnest feeling and the delicate blues guitar slinging captured perfectly what my heart was feeling as I moved my things out of the duplex and back into my mother's house where I was going to live when my first marriage fell apart. For years it was the only blues song I owned.
I got the chance to see B.B. live at the first Farm Aid event in Springfield, Illinois back in the 80s. It was a moment not just to see him but to see and hear him do The Thrill Is Gone. R.I.P.
(Written while listening to B.B. King Classics - Ed)

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