Another Blues man gone

I usually write my column on Tuesday mornings, the day The Anchor goes to press. That way my topic can be as current as possible, or because I couldn’t think of any topic by then.

But I’m writing this on Friday morning, one week prior to the day this issue comes out.

I woke up this morning and, as is my routine, I jumped on Facebook to see what was new in the social media world.

The news socked me right between the eyes: “Blues legend B.B. King passed away at age 89.”

Seemingly every other week, one of my music heroes dies, but this one, like only a few others in the past, brought tears to my eyes.

I loved B.B. King. I loved his music. I loved his persona. I loved his strength. And I loved his passion for the Blues.

I will never, ever know the pains that B.B. experienced, being born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi in the 1920s. His parents were share croppers, and he was ultimately raised by his grandmother.

Arguably, all of the contemporary music of my generation and younger, has been influenced by the great black Blues players. Men such as Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Albert and Freddie King (no relations), and more recently Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy, brought millions of people, in the U.S. and across the pond in England where rock and roll exploded in the 60s, the heart and soul of music: the Blues.

Each of these men had to put up with shameful racist white people wherever they traveled in “the land of the free.”

How many back doors did they have to enter? How many black-only hotels did they have to sleep in? How many restaurants were they turned away from? How many dollars were roB.B.ed from them by evil agents and record company executives?

Yet night after night, year after year, these men brought white people the Blues, and they loved it.

B.B. King and men like him didn’t only play the Blues, they lived them, and they shared their incredible talents across the color barriers, passing on their soul to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa, Jack White and John Mayer.

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I saw B.B. in concert when he was mobile and quick. Then I saw B.B. last July in Webster; a man who had to be physically led to the stage, and who seemingly was nowhere near as lucid and sharp as he once was.

It saddened me, but it gave Emilie and Danny the chance to see the legend just months before his passing.

Jimmie Vaughan, the brother of the late, great Stevie Ray wrote a song about the passing of many great Blues guitarists, including his brother: “Six Strings Down.” The chorus is perfect for how I, and thousands of B.B. King fans feel this morning, “Heaven done called another Blues-stringer back home.”

Rest in peace B.B., far from the hatred and racism you rose above. The music world has the Blues today, and what better tribute is there than that?

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