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The Passing of an American Music Icon


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Few people in this life are as born to do what they do best as BB King.  He was as natural a musician as they come.  Self taught, intuitive and completely original.  He inspired artists from every genre of modern music from Adele to ZZ Top (whom they named themselves after).  Everyone who ever spoke of him only spoke kindly of not only his talent and performance, but of how this gentle man dealt with people, fans and critics alike.


I first was introduced to BB King's music at a very young age.  My parents were visiting relatives (oddly enough, my Uncle Roland) and my cousin Rolly was playing an old vinyl single of "The Thrill is Gone" while trying to pick it out with his acoustic guitar.  I asked him who was playing and he got out about a dozen other records and played them all.


I was hooked.  There was something about the timing, inflection, and just plain style of how BB King played music that stuck with me, even as a little tagalong.  Years later, when I was old enough to have what passes for a musical taste of my own, I still found myself heavily influenced by the blues, blues driven rock and anyone who could put that guitar into singing mood like BB could.  My friends gave me weird looks when I picked up a BB King cassette while they were all jamming to Van Hallen, Michael Jackson and Madonna.  But then they heard, and I think I converted a few of them away from flash to true musicianship and that unquantifiable quality we refer to as soul.


My own guitar playing often reflects trying to capture that BB King sound.  When I'm improvising, while I might be heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, Rush, Beattles and the Stones, Eric Clapton, Journey and Foreigner, the artists that I loved coming up, always in the back of my head there's this single spotlight, like in the far corner of the room, where Mr. King sits at a table, leaning back, his guitar always near by, a drink in his hand, smiling, waiting to hear me play.  As if he were a teacher, hiding in the back of the audience, waiting to hear a student perform but trying to stay out of sight so he can enjoy whatever happens without making it about him.


To me, that's what BB King will always stand for.  He was simply a good man feeling bad, and turning that bad into something sweet, deep and personal, sharing his pain with us all.  In recent years, I hadn't thought often of BB King, and it is a crime that we forget our heroes until they are forever beyond us.  But while the King is gone, the music remains.  We live in an age of marvels.  Wonders of technology and science.  BB King reminds us that when you break it down, it's the heart and soul of a man that remains.  It's the beauty of life, all it's ups and downs, that drives us onwards.


Thank you, BB King.  Rest easy a bit and watch the rest of the show.  We'll never forgot who led us to the stage.

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