If you head to Google this Monday, you ‘ll see an animation of a musician with a guitar and a great suit instead of the usual logo. It is none other than BB King. On this 16th of September, the blues legend would have celebrated her 94th birthday. Google honours King with a doodle.
King influenced rock music generations like no other: guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan were influenced by his style – to be heard in songs like “The Thrill Is Gone,” a play that today is a pop culture canon. As Clapton once said, King’s style is universal – he can not be reduced to a genre.
Kings albums sold millions of times. In 2009, he received his 15 Grammy Award for his album “One Kind Favor“; he was honoured with, among others, the Grammy for his life’s work.
The “BB” in King’s name stood for “Blues Boy“, a shortening of “Beale Street Blues Boy” – King’s pseudonym, as he moderated his broadcast on the radio station “WDIA” in the late 1940s.
BB King was born in 1925 as Riley B. King on a plantation near Itta Bena, Mississippi. After the death of his mother, he was first a plantation worker. During this time he sang in church choirs and learned to play the guitar.
Up to 300 performances a year – a life on tour
King began his music career in the mid-20th century with concerts in pubs, dance halls and nightclubs. After one of his first recordings in 1951 reached the top of the American “Rhythm & Blues” charts, King toured almost always; For decades he played 200 to 300 shows a year.
Especially in the sixties and seventies, the fans and interpreters of the then quite young American and British rock scene celebrated him. King was on stage and travelling the world until old age. He died on May 14, 2015, in Las Vegas at the age of 89 after a prolonged illness.
Numerous musicians – such as the former Beatles – drummer Ringo Starr or Kiss bassist Gene Simmons – expressed their grief on King’s death on Twitter. Rock musician Lenny Kravitz wrote, “Anyone could play a thousand notes and never express what you said in a single one.”