bb king
U.S. blues legend B.B. King performs during the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux July 12, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Bluesman and poet BB King died in his sleep on Thursday night, May 15, 2015. He was 89 years old. BB was short for Blues Boy, a nickname that King earned through a an early life of hardship and channeled through his vibrato guitar style and thundering voice. King was born in a sharecropper's shack in 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He lost his parents at an early age and was raised by his grandfather. He first put food on the table picking cotton and later as a tractor driver. He got his first break as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee. In “Why I Sing The Blues,” King embodied the struggles of generations of a poor underclass.

Yes, I say everybody wanna know

Why I sing the blues

Well, I've been around a long time

I really have paid my dues

When I first got the blues

They brought me over on a ship

Men were standing over me

And a lot more with a whip

BB King may have been discarded by his niche audience in the 1960s if not for inspiring an emerging generation of white rock stars in the U.S. and U.K. Singers like Eric Clapton and bands like the Rolling stone brought BB King’s poignant blues sound into their rock and roll anthems. That blues sound may have been epitomized by “The Thrill Is Gone,” a trilling song of sorrow mourning lost love. Well, The Thrill is gone, but his music carries on.

The Thrill Is Gone

Sweet Little Angel

I Believe To My Soul

Everyday I Have The Blues

Come Rain Or Come Shine (With Eric Clapton)

Worry, Worry, Worry (Live At The Cook County Jail)

Eric Clapton Mourns BB King

Live At The Regal (Full Album)

Crying Won't Help You

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