Saturday, May 16, 2015

BB King

Legendary blues musician BB King passed away the other day at the age of 89. I wasn't a huge fan, but I understand his role in the history of music and what he meant to other artists that he influenced.

Sometimes when you're a kid you don't know much. One of the things I heard a lot growing up was "You're not as smart as you think you are." Now, whether that was true or not can be debated at a later date.

The point is, when I was a kid I knew BB King not from the music world, but rather from diabetes testing strip commercials. I mean, I knew he was a musician. That was the point of the commercials: he hated pricking his fingers to check his blood sugar because it interfered with his guitar playing. Kind of like how I also thought at the time that Dick Van Patton just sold insulated windows.

So, he was 89 years old and had issues with diabetes. When I heard that he died, my reaction was along the lines of "Yeah. That happens." I was more shocked at a Facebook status I saw lamenting the loss of King that said something to the effect of "OMG Can't believe we lost BB King in this manner!" She made it sound like some sort of James Dean rebel-without-a-cause, avoidable tragedy. I think when you're 89 that the real news story should be every day that you don't die.

What was unintentionally hilarious about BB King's death was listening to the radio later that day. The DJ played an Eric Clapton song (the one about loving cocaine) and then spoke about the relationship between Clapton and King, bringing up the album they recorded together in 2000. He concluded by saying, "And after the break, we're going to play some rock from artists still with us." The first band back from commercial was The Who. Half of that band is dead!

As I discovered more music as I got older, I did begin to appreciate BB King and what he represented and how he influenced generations of musicians. I didn't care a lot for the entire BB King catalog, but I enjoyed him in small doses. I particularly enjoyed his collaborations with other artists. His stuff with Eric Clapton is great. My favorite BB King track, though, is "When Love Comes To Town," which he performs with U2. That track is below. You can click here to see a portion of the "Rattle and Hum" documentary where Bono discusses the song with King.

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