Remembering the Blues maestro: Here are some of BB King's rare musical gems

Swetha Ramakrishnan

May 16, 2015 10:25:48 IST

"I started to like the blues, I guess, when I was about 6-7 years old. There was something about it, because nobody else played that kind of music" - BB King

Remembering the Blues maestro: Here are some of BB Kings rare musical gems

BB King. Image by AP.

Nobody else still plays like the blues singer BB King, who passed away on Thursday night at age 89. To call him a veteran would be a gross understatement, so we're going to steer clear of labels.

He is known for his hypnotising vocals, moody blues and guitar riffs (he was named the third greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine), but not many people know that King was a loner and started his life on a farm in Mississippi as a cotton collector. Once he became a musician he would tour 300 days a year and spend the remaining time in recording studios.

In 1969, he hit the UK top 20 with one of his most famous songs "The Thrill is Gone", and that followed a remarkably memorable music career.

A lot of us recognise him by this eponymous number, but there are so many more rare BB King songs that helped him rise to fame and are a also pleasure to the ears.

As a tribute to the Blues' king, here are some of his more underrated songs. Plug in, tune out:

1. Why I Sing The Blues

There's no way you can claim to have heard BB King and not sat through this song. You can imagine him sitting in the dark, with his guitar, who he named Lucille, writing down these beautifully autobiographical words: "Everybody wants to know/Why I sing the blues/Well, I've been around a long time/I really have paid my dues"


2. Never Make Your Move Too Soon 

This swing-worthy song just drips of swag. It's groovy, melodious and it's the sort of anthem you can imagine being an introduction song for a suave, ladies man. The best part of this song is the ambiance noise in the background that transports you back to a time when the blues was performed in a big, loud social gathering. Listen to BB King's advice, guys.


3. 3'o Clock Blues 

This one's a more moody take on the blues. The song is known to have launched BB King's career and remained a part of his concert repertoire till very recently. The melodies are wavy, slowly unwinding and it is best paired with a steaming hot cup of tea on an unassuming Saturday afternoon.


4. Lucille 

Lucille is the name of BB King's guitars, usually black gibsons. The story behind the name is even more interesting than the song he wrote about it. In 1949 King was performing in Arkansas when the venue caught fire. King went back into the area to retrieve his $30 guitar, only to find out that two men died in the fire after fighting for a woman named Lucille. Since then, King named his guitar the same to remind himself never to do something as stupid.

In the song, BB King plays the smooth guitar while introducing his personal instrument and how it is his favorite companion. He laughs, shares some stories and shows off the guitar in this number. "I can always depend on Lucille," he says. We agree.


5. Early in the Morning, feat. Van Morrison

This song is a Sonny Boy Willamson original but was a part of BB King's 41st studio album 'BB King and Friends' which was released in 2005. When this song begins you hear Van Morrison's raspy voice setting the mood for the mischievous song, but the minute BB King takes over in verse two you understand what harmony sounds like. Their voices blend together beautifully, and even though it's not an original, this is arguably one of the best versions.


Special mention: Hummingbird featuring John Mayer

Speaking of harmony, we had to have this version of the famous song Hummingbird in this list. The original song is written by Leon Russell, but King would have this as part of concert repertoire for years. In the 2005 album, BB King and Friends, a version of Hummingbird with John Mayer was included, with subsequent live performances. Listen to it for yourself, and swoon.

Updated Date: May 16, 2015 10:27:53 IST

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