The King of Blues: How B.B. King Influenced My Life


The King of Blues. I am not sure the title does him justice. His music transcends the title of King. When someone has the ability to reach deep down into your soul and hold you there, in a frozen moment… That is something far deeper than any King could ever do. I love the Blues. I have always loved the Blues. B.B. King always had a way of reaching the deepest parts of me. There are very few artists that have that effect on me. I can name all of them on one hand, actually. Sadly, most of today’s music, expanding over all genres, has lost the true meaning of music for me. There’s nothing quite like “The Power of The Blues.” For me, real music- the kind of music that touches your soul, is found in Blues, Jazz, Motown, and classic old-school R&B. I clearly was born in the wrong time. LOL. Thankfully, artists like B.B. King refuse to stay in one decade or even two. Artists like B.B. King last forever… Their music, their soul, their grip on people like myself, lasts a lifetime.

I come from a very musically diverse background. My mother was raised in the church and she grew up singing gospel. My father was a good ole’ city boy who preferred a dim bar with a live blues band playing. For as long as I can remember, my mother was always singing. She has a beautiful voice and over the years she would sing everything from “Amazing Grace” to “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” My father always had music playing. He listened to all kinds of music while I was growing up. He never stuck to one genre, but he always loved the Blues and Jazz. He knew who Norah Jones was before the rest of the world caught on. And I knew who B.B. King was because of my father. Listening to my dad talk about the Blues had me listening to every track I could find.

It didn’t take long for me to start listening to The King of Blues along with Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, and Etta James. The older I got, the more I started to dig deep into other genres like Motown. The Temptations, for example, hold a very special place in my heart as well.

A few years ago, I went with a group of people to Nashville, Tennessee for an away Ravens game. We were walking through the main area where all the bars are and I saw B.B. Kings Blues Club. I wanted to stop in there so badly. Obviously B.B. King wouldn’t be there, but I knew whatever musicians they had playing that night would speak to me. I knew that if I stepped foot into that bar, I would have grabbed a table and a drink, and I would have sat there all night just listening to the Blues. Needless to say, I was the only person in my group that had that kind of love for the Blues. Nobody else seemed even remotely interested in going in; I am pretty sure we ended up at a Hooters that night. The shame is bone-crushing, so please spare me the beating. Not that there is anything wrong with Hooters! Everyone loves a good Hooters outing. But in Nashville?!?! You don’t go to Nashville to chill at a Hooters people. You go and experience the soul of the city and you feel it in your bones. What can I say? I was outnumbered by males three to one. My adoration for the magic of that Blues Club was not going to compete with bosoms and wings. I remember talking to my father about B.B. Kings when I got home and he just lit up like a Christmas tree and couldn’t believe I didn’t go in.

There are many days where I put my headphones in and just sit back and let the sound of B.B. King take me to another place. Songs like, “Sweet Little Angel,” “To Know You Is to Love You,” and “Sweet Sixteen” are always on my shuffle list. Unless you have a love for the Blues, I think it’s hard for some people to understand the pull this music has on your soul. To make a connection with music that is so powerful it can change your mood in an instant is something entirely out of this world. Certain B.B. King songs take me back to a specific place or time. This music has the power to take me back to vivid memories I haven’t had in years. Those memories are priceless and it’s amazing that music has the ability to trigger such a strong response.

There is only one artist who is “current” that can trigger these same emotions and memories for me. Sadly, the rest of today’s music lacks soul, passion, and feeling. Music is supposed to make you feel and I just can’t find that in most of todays “artists.” I guess that’s just the way it works though; times change, music changes. It saddens me that music is not held at the same standard as other subjects like Science and Math. Schools have been slowly pushing music out of their curriculum for years. It is regarded as a subject that is not important or necessary. I wish I could stress how important it is for our youth to engage in music and really understand the effect it has on the human race. Music is the ONE thing that can truly bring people together. Music joins people of unlikely backgrounds and social statuses. Music brings joy and happiness. Music is important.

This morning I was coming out of the metro and I heard the faint sounds of a saxophone playing “The Thrill is Gone.” When I waked out of the metro, there stood an elderly man playing his saxophone like it was an extension of his soul. It was beautiful. I still have to walk several blocks before I reach my office and as I was walking, two different cars drove by with their radios blaring B.B. King. I encountered the same powerful effect that music has on my walk at lunch. Two men, one playing the guitar and the other a keyboardist, were playing “Rock Me Baby.” It was like the entire city of D.C. was paying tribute to The King of Blues. That is what music does to people.

I get married in a week. We opted for a keyboardist/saxophonist as it is a smaller wedding. I find it kind of sad and ironic because when the keyboardist asked me what kind of music I would like for him to play (a conversation that happened less than 4 months ago), I told him I wanted to hear the Blues and Jazz (with a little Reggae thrown in as well). I told him I wanted to hear B.B. King. I had been doubting my decision to not go with a DJ at the wedding since not everyone shares my taste for the Blues. But I am not doubting it anymore. I think my wedding day will have even more meaning now that the sounds of the late, great B.B. King will be playing in the background.

Rest easy to an incredible soul. You will be missed Riley B. King, and I truly believe that the “thrill” is not gone and will forever live on.

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