B.B. King, Legendary Blues Guitarist, Dead at 89
Music has lost an icon. B.B. King — singer, songwriter and groundbreaking blues guitarist — died peacefully in his sleep Thursday evening in his home in Las Vegas, the AP reports. He was 89.
King, who'd earned 15 Grammy Awards during his meteoric 70-plus-year career, had battled diabetes for close to 30 years and was hospitalized in April for dehydration. He remained in hospice care in his home following a collapse at a concert at the House of Blues in Chicago last October.
Born Riley B. King, he gained the nickname Beale Street Blues Boy while working as a singer at a Memphis radio station. Of course, the name was later shortened to Blues Boy and eventually to B.B.
His unique style of play — achieved on his beloved Gibson, affectionately named Lucille — was considered an influence on many guitarists of the modern era. Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards have cited King as a mentor. He is known as the "King of the Blues."
King produced more than 50 albums and performed live well into his final year. His 2009 album, One Kind Favor, won him his final Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. Other honors include inductions into the Blues Hall of Fame (1980) and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1987). In 1990 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts and five years later was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognizes the "lifelong accomplishments and extraordinary talents of our nation's most prestigious artists." He'd previously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.
He is the namesake of the live music and restaurant chain B.B. King's Blues Club, which opened its first location in Memphis in 1994 and has since expanded to Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Foxwoods, Conn., and Las Vegas.
Watch B.B. King Perform Live at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011
See the Stars We Lost in 2014