The King of Blues B.B King has died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 89 at his home in Las Vegas.
He sold millions of records worldwide and performed over 15,000 concerts during his remarkable 70 year career, introducing thousands of people to the blues and being a major influence to artists such as Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards. He was awarded his 15th Grammy in 2009 for his stripped back blues album One Kind Favor.
King’s legendary Gibson guitar was called Lucille – the name originated from an occasion King was playing a club and a fire was started after two men brawled over a girl called Lucille. His signature single-string runs, vibratos and heavily bent notes gave him his instantly recognisable sound along with a penchant for storytelling during his live sets.
“When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody. I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling” he said in 2006.
His Uncle, a preacher from the Mississippi Delta, taught him to play – although he was from the birthplace of the blues, he had an attitude of openness towards who could play it:
“People all over the world have problems. And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die.”
Despite his obvious stellar success and enormous influence over some of the world’s biggest artists, he was modest in the face of it “I’m just one who carried the baton because it was started long before me” he said in 2008.
He is survived by his 11 biological and adopted children.