National Obituary Review

DPD – B.B. King

0 Comments 15 May 2015


We lost a good one yesterday. I was up late stretching and listening to Charlie Mingus when the fax came through. As soon as I read the message my blood ran cold – “The King Is Dead”.

I was spooked. I didn’t know what to do so I reached for the Laphroaig (15 year), flipped the Mingus record and laid down on the floor.

I didn’t sleep a wink. I couldn’t shake the feeling that things were slipping away. When Mingus had finished I tried to put on Singin’ the Blues but when the needle hit the sound was too jarring, the wound too raw. So I put on The Birth of Cool hoping Miles would numb the pain. Then it hit me.

Back in the 1950s the lifeblood of American culture pulsed through juke joints, country dance halls and back alley nightclubs. In such locales B.B. cut his teeth and made his contribution. King plugged into the current spawned from 1957’s release of The Birth of Cool. It was a different flavor but it all tasted similar. Coltrane was in that recipe. So was James Brown, Otis Redding, George Clinton and Michael Jackson (pre all that weird shit).

Hell, as a country we’ve been wading in this current for the past half century. Now the stream is dry and we’re out of ideas so Ryan Seacrest fills the void. Sure, we’ve had ebbs and flows since. Vogues in-and-out of style. But every so often you’d see B.B. (or Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf) and it was like an omniscient face smack reminding you where it all came from.

By his own admission, King could not play chords well and always relied on improvisation. In a time where curriculums and career paths are over curated it makes you wonder if true creativity can still thrive.

The flag is flying at half mast today at The Shade HQ.

Not surprisingly those quacks over at the NYTs contributed a steaming poop for a memorial to The King. So do yourself a favor and read the Chicago Tribune’s.


- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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