B.B. King: the omniscient legend, a soulful person of many alleged woes who yet flies higher than SpaceShipOne. If the King’s 42 self-proclaimed albums throughout his career stand to be tried, the 15 Grammy awards he has received over the years all bear a necessary validation of truth. At 88 years old, this man is still sharing his story of how Lucille brought liberation from the Plantation.
On a cool cloudburst December evening in Beverly Hills, B.B. and Lucille narrated their blues to an eclectic audience of enthusiastic fans who exclaimed their love back to the King. In B.B. fashion, as he and his fellas grooved to their smooth summery version of "You’re My Sunshine," King broke it down and advised the ladies of The Saban Theatre to find themselves someone to smooch in the audience. As that social bubble was popped on the spot, the crowd cheered in liberation! At this moment, while others snapped their lips together, a woman who snuck from the artist’s green room was ready to obey the King’s request, on himself. Little did he know, because although she almost made it, she was stopped by security. It is this natural charismatic exchange with the audience that allows for such moments to be possible.
Contrary to the original recording cut in June of ’69, the element of sharp brass comfortably strutted with Lucille’s smooth warm tone and ensured that the thrill was a priority as the boys steadily grooved through "The Thrill Is Gone." The crowd endorsed such stylish sounds on this classic track by dancing and carrying on. Just before the show ended, B.B. King guided “those of you who pray” in the audience to a point of prayer for his friend Willie Nelson and his band. He and the band dedicated a bouncy and bluesy rendition of the gospel hymn: "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The substance of B.B. King’s music is of a certain impermanent theme. A theme that rings intensely within the darkest truths of our lives. A theme of triumphantly beautiful sorrows. A theme that obligates empathy from even the most perverse of forces. To some extent, this man vacates the laws of The Matthew Effect and hosts an ever fluctuating range of successes amidst his consistent history of perceived impoverished events. Kind of like that time his kid brother, Curce, accidentally swallowed shards of glass and expired. Or how his parents were in and out of his life due to various circumstances. How on multiple occasions, the demanding ultimatum of "It’s either me or Lucille" has never been won by any women in his life. B.B. confesses, “...and that’s why I’ve had fifteen children by fifteen women."
The good times in his later years have ultimately surpassed the bad times, and B.B. stands firm as an oak rooted in Blues history. On this day, the King has been long settled in a state of simplistic grace yet hosts the power to absolutely illuminate the deepest and darkest crevices of existence. May it be through The King of the Blues, his work, and his story that we forever remember the underdog victory of Riley B. King, The Beale Street Blues Boy.
Text by: Nick Appleberry; Photos by: Paula Tripodi/ Getty Images
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