The world is mourning the loss and celebrating the life and legacy of BB King and I am joining that chorus with a heavy but thankful heart. He gave more than I can possibly sum up in his 89 years. We are all the richer for those gifts and it would be wrong to ask for any more but there was never going to be a day we would want to let him go.
Too many of the greats were not appreciated in their own time. I take some comfort in the belief BB had some idea of just how respected, revered, and beloved he was as an artist, entertainer, ambassador, and man.
I didn't grow up on the blues but I knew who BB King was even as a kid. My musical tastes were very much in the rock world and I've been obsessed with guitars and guitarists even though I can't play a lick. I wouldn't know his music for years to come but something about him- I already understood this was a serious man when it came to the guitar and that made him all right in my book. My voyage into the world of the blues inevitably led me to his work and I realized my early impressions were spot on.
I've shared this story before but I'll share it again as it has been on my mind this morning with news of his passing. BB King & Buddy Guy were sharing a bill at Ryman Auditorium within a week of Paul Simon's show at that same hallowed venue. I knew I couldn't afford to see both shows. I knew whichever one I chose was the right answer and there was no way I wouldn't regret missing the other. I went and saw those two blues legends and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life and a treasured memory.
There are many who've described the magical dichotomy of the blues: music rooted in pain that brings a smile to your face, which is what I feel as I listen to his music today. I'm smiling because he often did as he played and because of the power and beauty of his work. I also feel the ache both from the music and the knowledge he is no longer with us.