Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King

Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King

Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King

Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King

Excerpt

Someone wanting to sing B. B. King's praises today would probably draw up an account such as the following:

"In a career that spans half a century, B. B. King has worn out sixteen guitars making nearly fifteen thousand appearances for audiences of all races and nationalities in fifty-seven different countries, including some fifty performances for prisoners; he has recorded about seventy albums as a name artist; he has worked in cinema, television, and radio; he has written books. Since 1951, seventy-five of his songs have appeared in the Billboard R&B hit parades, for a total of 560 weeks (nearly eleven years!); he has won seven Grammy Awards, and, in 1987, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he was given a special Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He has also received a National Heritage Fellowship (in 1991), the Medal of the Arts from the president of the United States, and four honorary doctorates awarded by the most prestigious American universities, including Yale and the Berklee College of Music. His star is on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has fifteen children (all born out of wedlock) and two dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

This is an eye-catching, if laconic, summary of an admirable and most unusual career. In some ways, B. B. King's life has conformed to one possible image of the typical blues singer: early years of poverty and hardship in the southern United States, against a backdrop of cottonfields and the muddy waters of the Mississippi River, an important musical apprenticeship in a big city--in his case, Memphis, Tennessee--and a career that has reached its peak under the spotlights of Las Vegas, amidst the sequins and the spangles. All this is true, but only in part, for it is too simplistic an account. B. B. King's real story is a great deal richer.

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