I’ve heard many of you respond to BB King’s recent earthly departure with “He lived for 89 years. It was time for God to take him.”
I know, but I’m still going miss him.
Introducing BB King to my life stands among the many perfect decisions the Elders made in my personal development.
The King of the Blues helped me to distinguish between the musical vanguard, their emulators and everyone else.
I couldn’t tell you what the music world would look like today if Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, Slash and too many other creators to name didn’t play BB King’s records during their younger years. And listing the number of times the Hip Hop Nation sampled King would be an even longer discussion.
But as I looked beyond BB King’s music and into his personal life, I found a hard-working man of African descent who escaped from the oppressive clutch of sharecropping as a teenager; transitioned from obscurity to superstardom during his adult years; donated his time and resources to charitable causes he believed in; and as Charles Shaar Murray wrote in a recent Guardian article, King was one of the few musical innovators who was loved by vitrually everyone, and interacted with the world with the absence of tabloid-worthy drama.
In other words, BB King is more than an American Roots music genius and a harmonic skytoucher. He’s a role model for the world as well as an American success story which no one mentions.
I don’t define success as making lots of money or being famous—although BB King achieved both of those things. I see success in people who know they can do more with their natural gifts, and they do just just that.
I embedded a video of King’s 1970 live performance at Chicago’s Cook County Jail. Feel free to share with me your favorite albums or tracks—I’d love to hear them.