BB King remembered by Joe Bonamassa

16 September 1925 – 14 May 2015
The American blues rock guitarist has fond memories of the generosity of ‘the king of the blues’, who died in Las Vegas

Read the Observer’s obituaries of 2015 in full here
Ornette Coleman remembered by Neneh Cherry

I met BB King 25 years ago and he helped me get started in the music business. He asked me to open for him at the Lilac festival in Rochester, New York, in 1989 and I ended up opening for him that whole summer, about 20 shows. Watching him that summer was enough to convince this kid that a life in the blues was for me. And I’m not the only person he did that for. He always wanted to see the blues flourish and he helped a lot of young musicians along the way. His outlook was the more young people that are involved in it, the healthier the music is. You can see that now with a bunch of kids out there making records and touring, all with the legacy and the foundation that BB King laid over the past 60 years.

Never again will there be another as good, gracious or as kind as Mr King. It was this humility and this giving back to other artists that has stayed with me and it’s something that I try and do with other artists in my career. His legacy in my life was that he gave me a stage and allowed me to play to his audience and some of his audience became my audience. I can never repay the debt of gratitude that I have for this man who befriended me and gave me that opportunity. His humility, his advice and his generosity both on and off the stage come out in his music and that’s why he was so beloved.

For many of us, the thought of not having BB King on this earth seemed surreal. A man larger than life who was a constant, something you can set your watch to. The sun will rise and fall and BB King will play the blues. Sadly, on 14 May, the sun rose but the music was silent. To say that the loss of BB King is devastating to the blues community is an understatement. He defined the blues, he was the blues. He brought blues to an audience that would never have found the blues if BB was not the conduit.

Mississippi bids musical farewell to blues legend BB King - video report

You only needed to hear BB King to play one note, you knew it was him. It was his fingerprint. It’s so hard as a guitar player to find your own sound and style and be able to identify yourself musically with a single note. BB King could do that.

When Mr King came off the road last year I couldn’t believe nor wanted to accept that I would never hear his nephew Walter King introduce him again: “Ladies and gentlemen, the King of the Blues, Mr BB King!” The excitement those words caused over the thousands of shows to millions of people will never be matched or equalled. Those shows that I saw – almost 50 in total over the past 25 years – changed my life.

Thank you Mr King for the inspiration, the motivation, the support, your friendship and, most importantly, the music that I love so dearly.

Joe Bonamassa

The GuardianTramp

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