I discovered B.B. King as a teenager, and I fell in love with his rough, bluesy voice and the exquisite way he made his guitar sing. Her name was Lucille, and she was a succession of black Gibson guitars that in B.B. King’s hands, were magical.
As a college student, one of the things on my bucket list (this was long before the term became popular) was to see B.B. King live. It would be another 15 years or so before I managed it, but in 2006, the day after my birthday, I saw B.B. King live at the Sandia Casino Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He was 80 years old, and that show was part of a string of close to 50 shows he did during the spring and summer of that year. People called him the hardest working musician in the business, and they weren’t kidding. For most of his active career, he would perform up to 300 shows a year.
By that point in his life, B.B. King couldn’t even stand up for his performance – he sat in a chair, this old black man, and sang. And Lucille sang with him.
I remember sitting in my seat, stunned and awed, goosebumps on my arms as he played. It’s something I’ll never forget.
B.B. King’s career ran close to 70 years, and it’s impossible to measure the impact he’s had on generations of musicians and fans.
The span of a human life is finite, but I take some small measure of comfort that his music will live on.
Rest in peace, B.B.