B.B. King has died. He was 89 and had been receiving hospice care at his home in Las Vegas. The announcement was made late Thursday evening by King’s attorney. Over the course of his remarkable career King was the recipient of nearly every available accolade in his field: the winner of 15 Grammy Awards (not counting a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1987); inductions into the Rock and Roll and Blues Foundation Halls of Fame; a Kennedy Center Honor; Presidential Medal of the Arts; the President Medal of Freedom; the international Polar Music Prize; and honorary doctorates from Yale and Brown.
King’s immense influence on other musicians is well documented. In 2011, Rolling Stone listed him at No. 6 on its list of 100 greatest guitarists, behind No. 1 Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck. “B.B. King was one of the few classic blues artists to have songs on mainstream radio,” said Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. “Because I was able to hear his guitar playing on ‘The Thrill is Gone,’ it showed that given the right song you could sneak some great guitar sounds into top 40 radio.”
King’s constant companion, his Gibson guitar nicknamed “Lucille,” is almost as famous as he is. There were more than a dozen Lucilles during his lifetime. As the story goes, the original received its now-legendary name after King rescued the $30 instrument from a juke-joint fire — a blaze ignited when two men, who were fighting over a woman named Lucille knocked over a kerosene lamp. In a 2005 interview with USA Today, King remarked, “Blues is a tonic for whatever ails you. I could play the blues and then not be blue anymore.”
USA Today has an in-depth retrospective on King’s amazing life and career.
Stats courtesy RAMP/MyDamnChannel.