The Thrill is Gone

David Worley Fannie Mae BB KingKnown as the “King of the Blues”, legendary bluesman B. B. King has made a name for himself over the years.  Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, B. B. King has earned 15 Grammys, recorded over 50 albums, done countless shows and inspired scores of musicians, including Z. Z. Top, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix.  Late yesterday, however, the legendary bluesman died at his home in Las Vegas, at the age of 89.  According to his attorney, King died pecefully in his sleep at his Las Vegas home.

Even though King had been performing well into his 80s, he had been suffering from diabetes for 30 years, and the past year he had been in declining health.  Last April, he ended up releasing an apology for a bad show, and last October he collapsed at a concert in Chicago due to “dehydration and exhaustion”.  Since then, he had been in hospice care at his home in Las Vegas.  B. B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16 1925, on a tenant farm near Itta Benna, Mississippi.  He was raised by his grandmother after the separation of his parents and death of his mother, and ended up working as a sharecropper for five years.

From the start of his career in the late 1940s, King became a performance powerhouse, often performing over 250 concerts a year.  King was known for his signature guitar playing, characterized beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes on his Gibson, named “Lucille”.  This is most evident in his signature song, “The Thrill is Gone”.  King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.  He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush, gave a guitar to Pope John Paul II and had Obama sing along to his “Sweet Home Chicago”.  He is survived by 11 of his children and around 50 grandchildren.

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