Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

King of the Blues Dies

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A giant in the blues world, B.B. King has died in his Las Vegas home. After collapsing during a concert in Chicago last October, the 89-year-old was hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion. Since then he has suffered ill health with a diabetes-related illness. B.B. King had been in hospice care in his home where he passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, May 14.

The son of a sharecropper, Riley B. King was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation near Itta Bena, MS. He left school after grade 10 to make a living driving a tractor and picking cotton for 75 cents a day. His preacher uncle taught him to play guitar but it wasn’t until basic training in the Army in World War II when he began playing and singing the blues.

photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos

Riley sang gospel songs on a Memphis street corner until he got a job at 23 at radio station WDIA as a disc jockey nicknamed “Beale Street Blues Boy.” In addition to a steady gig, it gave him access to a wide range of records in the station’s library. King studied the music of guitar greats like Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt, and T-Bone Walker.

While playing local clubs at night, he first recorded four sides at Bullet Records in 1949 and his 1951 record Three O’Clock Blues became a top seller. His heartfelt vocals and wailing guitar would be the centerpiece of a string of hits including My Lucille, Sweet Little Angel, How Blue Can You Get, The Thrill is Gone, and many more.

From 1950 to 1970, B.B. King was always on the road and never home. He travelled an average 300 days a year and spent the rest of his time in the recording studio. (In recent years, he reduced his days on the road to 100.) Over several decades in the music business, he won 15 Grammys and sold more than 40 million records worldwide. King was inducted in both The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

B.B. King’s gritty voice and scorching guitar licks on his Gibson ES-355 named Lucille influenced a generation of blues and rock guitarists like Otis Rush, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Cray, John Mayall, and Mike Bloomfield. His friend and record-mate Eric Clapton posted this moving tribute:

Always a gentleman onstage and off, this is B.B. King’s lively guest appearance on Sesame Street:

B.B. King: The Life of Riley

If you want to know more about King’s life, watch “B.B. King: The Life of Riley,” a feature documentary about this legendary blues musician. Directed by Jon Brewer and narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film takes us from Riley’s humble beginnings overcoming poverty and racism to become an international star. Brewer spent two years wading through 250 hours of archive footage and interviews to assemble a complete portrait of the man. (Warts and all.)

Even though its theatrical run is finished, you can download “B.B. King: The Life of Riley” from iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/b.b.-king-life-of-riley/id912903759

You can also buy it on DVD at:

http://www.econgroupinc.net/bbking/b-b-king-life-of-riley-dvd-preorder.html

B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center

If you are heading south from Memphis along the Mississippi Blues Trail, the impressive B.B. King Museum in Indianola, MS is a shrine for blues lovers. The museum not only profiles King’s life and career, but showcases many other blues artists from the Delta.

B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
400 Second Street, Indianola, MS 38751
http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/

Every year for the past 40 years, Mr. King returned to Indianola to perform for his hometown. This year’s annual B.B. King Homecoming Festival will be held in his honor at the museum grounds on Sunday, May 24th, 2015 at 2:00 pm.

B.B. King Homecoming Festival
http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/bb-king-homecoming-festival

B.B. King opened his last album singing, “I’m not going anytime soon, but when the day comes, don’t forget me.”

There’s little chance of that.  May his music last forever.

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“B.B. King: The Life of Riley”

B_B__King_in_2009
photo by Tom Beetz, Wikimedia Commons

Today marks the release of “B.B. King: The Life of Riley,” the first feature documentary about one of the most influential blues musicians of all time. Directed by Jon Brewer and narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film takes us from King’s humble beginnings as a Mississippi cotton picker overcoming poverty and racism to become an international star.  When he came to Memphis at 23, Riley King worked at WDIA radio as a disc jockey nicknamed “Beale Street Blues Boy.” While playing local clubs at night, he first recorded four sides at Bullet Records in 1949, and–thanks to talent and tireless touring–went on to play over 300 concerts a year and sell millions of records.

King’s shadow looms large. When he plays his Gibson guitar “Lucille” in his distinctive vibrato style, millions know that sound. Many high-profile musicians appear in the film, including Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Bono, Dr. John, Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger. The guy has staying power–over the decades, Riley B. King has outlasted most of his peers and several music styles, and at 88 he still plays the blues as he hears it. A true original.

“B.B. King: The Life of Riley” plays in select dates throughout the country.
http://www.bbking.com/film/

Director Jon Brewer spent two years  on the project and waded through 250 hours of archive footage and interviews to assemble a complete portrait of the man. If it doesn’t show in your area, you can buy “B.B. King: The Life of Riley” on DVD at:
http://www.amazon.com/King-B-b-Life-Riley-B-B

For those outside the United States, you can download the film from iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/bb-king…life-of-riley/id775234166

B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center


If you are heading south from Memphis along the Mississippi Blues Trail, the impressive B.B. King Museum in Indianola, MS is a shrine for blues lovers.

B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center
400 Second Street, Indianola, MS 38751
http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/

Every year for the past 40 years, Mr. King has returned to Indianola to perform for his hometown. This year’s free B.B. King Homecoming Festival will be held at the museum grounds on Sunday, May 25th at 2:00 PM.

B.B. King Homecoming Festival
http://www.bbkingmuseum.org/bb-king-homecoming-festival-2014