Bring them all, Eric Clapton, T-Bone Walker, the siblings – Johnny and Edgar Winter, Stevie-Ray Vaughan including the revered Jimmy Hendrix, all of the aforementioned great string twisters would die wrestling for space just to polish the shoes of this old “Toppie”, who defined blues music until his final days on the universe. The musical world mourns the shock departure of blues legend, the one and only BB King, who exited the game of life at the fairly advanced age of 89 at his home in Las Vegas, United States last Thursday.
Sources close to the gravel-voiced blues singer revealed that the wailing blues guitarist died of multiple strokes attributed to Type 2 diabetes.
King has been in poor state of health of late and was placed under hospice care but defied his advanced age, as he continued to dish out live shows until last October, when he was obliged to cancel a tour citing dehydration and exhaustion as a result of diabetes.
“I wanted to connect my music to human emotions,” said the blues guitarist statesman who could with ease twist his Les Paul guitar strings with shimmering vibrato, obediently accompanied by his breath-taking gravel voice, reminiscent of that of the late great mbaqanga vocalist Simon Nkabinde, better known as Mahlathini of the Mahotella Queens.
Those who care to remember, Bra BB King will be best remembered for his adrenaline-pumping tune, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. His initials BB stood for “Blues Boy”, a name he adopted when he first tasted fame in the 1940s, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. Finding himself without parents and on his own while hardly out of his pair of shorts at the tender age of 14, he slaved at a plantation in Mississippi to keep hunger at bay.
A largely self-taught guitarist, King’s musical journey started in country dance halls and notorious ghetto nightclubs before he rose to prominence earning international acclaim in the intervening years. Although the legendary blues guitarist was becoming a bit long in the tooth, his death has sent shockwaves among local musos.
Local session jazz guitarist Sammy Batola, describes King as the ultimate guitarist, saying he had his own way of playing the guitar.
“What I mostly liked about him is that he was not in the habit of playing too many scales in his repertoire. He was playing simple and genuinely from the heart possessing this rare knack of connecting his musical works to human nature.”
A tearful accomplished drummer and vocalist Dave Webster said, “BB King was an iconic blues guitarist, who has a big influence on many great blues guitarists including the great Eric Clapton. He spread the blues genre in the old days and as much as we all have our time on the universe, it’s very sad that he passed away. He will be sorely missed.”
Local guitarist Brazzo Gomusab was at a loss for words but after a while he managed to give a brief description of King’s musical virtuoso.
“BB King was a phenomenal guitarist surely in a class of his own and was up there with the very best and only the late Jimmy Hendrix could match him in certain aspects of his playing style.”