BB King to play The Great Stage in the Sky from here on out
In a coincidental twist of fate in the life of myself and that of the best guitar player I’ve ever heard play live…the same weekend I’m dreadfully disappointed by The Doheny Blues Festival follows just a day after God upgrade ol BB from a Las Vegas Casino Stage to one in heaven.
Knowing BB, AND God – I’d have to say God wanted a better seat. Lucille – his axe, unfortunately, can’t make the trip, but I like to think a soulful, soaring, lamenting, glorious, velvety voice such as his is something you Can take with you.
If there is no music in heaven; then I don’t want to go there. This begs the iconic Metaphor of “The Crossroads,” … to keep from getting OT I’ll discuss this unique in an upcoming post.
So upsetting to me…not his death…King lived a long life, loved his music, his guitar and most of all – performing live. I’d heard him play The Doheny Blues Festival three times over the course of my life and the festival’s tenure.
As good as Los Lobos was (I nearly missed them, three no-name bands followed)…and instead of paying tribute or even mentioning that the most influential blues singer/songwriter, guitarist of all time had recently passed away, they proceeded to play butchered hacky “blues” like “All Right Now,” literally, pop music 101 – a 12 bar blues in Bb. It was amateur night- all night. “You could Tell,” as Ace Rothstein would say. I heard pitch and ensemble problems to go with what amounted to cheesy cover bands that are technically NOT BLUES ENSEMBLES – weak rock/pop cover bands is what they were.
It busted my spirit for the whole affair. I did not return Sunday for Boz Scaggs. who’d been rescheduled due to weather (I think; that statement is not verified; they WERE INITIALLY SCHEDULED TO PERFORM SATURDAY NIGHT – THAT IS A FACT) I wanted to see them but could not drag myself back to the fest.
My bad. Sorry ’bout that.
Poor King’s body is still warm, and the bands standing in for him ON HIS OWN TURF – proceed to “phone in” weaksauce versions of music that was bad the FIRST TIME it was written.
An insult to his memory – I just couldn’t bring myself to come back – even for Boz Scaggs, whom now I’ve STILL never seen live.
To write an accurate obit for King is difficult; he led a generally private life, secluded from fame ROUGHLY more than half his life.
Steering clear of racist implications, according to his lawyer, King literally began his life a cotton-pickin ….errr…cotton picker! seriously. Though said to be 89 years old, I don’t think King was ever issued a birth-certificate. I could not verify when he was born OR his real name…leading me to believe he was born into indentured servitude on the Mississippi River Delta in the mid to late 20s.
His parents were most likely slaves in all but name.
“BB King” does not appear to be a stage name, but… born a “cotton-picker” in the Antebellum South; he may have chose his own name, or it was perhaps conferred by friends, family or fellow musicians in his youth.
BB King, according to medical sources, said he’d been in and out of a Vegas hospital for “mini-strokes.”
Thus the circumstances of his birth and death are foggy at best…but for a life well-lived and a towering musical legacy rivaling Louis Armstrong or John Lennon, with longevity and performance talent to rival “Mick n Keef” COMBINED…who cares how King was born? Who cares how he died?
In that vein, does it matter at all? To any of us? How we enter and exit these little lives of ours. Methinks it May NOT SO dear reader.
You never saw me come in, you won’t see me leave—-it is what I do at The Party that counts, #amirite?
For all the gloomy laments in the lyrical aspects of the Blues…there is no sadness to report in this here Obit. Just the love of his music:
Here’s to you, BB ….thanks for all the tunes, for going out to the Crossroads 50 years before me…for never “phoning in” a performance. I saw you enough times to know you were legit. Straight up. Legit. I’ll miss you. So will millions of other musicians and fans you entertained and inspired.
John Q. Public, I implore you see that Lucille makes her way either to The Smithsonian or at WORST, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Somewhere where she will be safe and publicly viewable, though she should never be played again; in THIS writer’s humble opinion….unless he bequeathed his axe to another player. What musicians want to do with their weapons after they can’t swing ’em any longer is for them and them alone to decide.
No one will miss you more than her, old friend.
According to whomever posted the above vid to YouTube, “It was one of his all-time favorite performances.” That’s as hard verify as his DOB, but it fits the narrative. Another poster, uploaded the same video saying “he performed in New York City – at a jail” THIS DOES NOT QUITE FIT THE NARRATIVE.
a) The background, foreground, set & setting look nothing like a city jail or state prison…it looks like a regular ol’ stage
b) There are lots of women in the audience
c) Very few Law Enforcement visible, no one appears to be armed
d) Had King ever been allowed to donate his time and perform at a New York State Penitentiary …. it would not be in The City Proper, but Upstate. Again, one look at the audience tells you this was filmed in New York City; far from The hills and forests of Syracuse, Albany and Buffalo.
e) It is likely a copycat urban legend. Live music performances are OUTRAGEOUSLY rare for all state correctional facilities. The Man in Black was allowed to perform at Fulsom State Prison one of the oldest prisons in the nation – a crown jewel of The California Department of Corrections (an historic site-legendary and infamous), Cash did a bit there himself before making his come up. The show had to’ve been one for the ages. There are a million stories about Fulsom for every prisoner and CO who ever did time there. Cash’s live performance was part marketing stunt and part reward for long-term good behavior on behalf of the employees and inmates of Fulsom. Riots broke out immediately following the show, Fulsom went back on lockdown.
Today, music is a strikingly precious thing inside the CDC. Some institutions do not allow inmates to buy or listen to radios. There are no musical instruments because they can be used as weapons. Visit a prison cell-block on any Friday Night where music is banned; and you will here them take-turns singing to their block, in groups or solo. It is lovingly called “American Idol Night” at CJX in Orange County and is the highlight of the week for many of the inmates.
f) the vid is a re-upload of a re-upload…reducing the credibility of the “creator” geometrically. (The oldest upload is embedded above for your listening pleasure – Pure, elegant, sonorous tones from King’s pipes and Lucy’s strings. Transcendent talent)
To the CDC – to all institutions – Take my money, my freedom, starve me, freeze me out, deprive me of sleep, force me to drink awful tap water. Violate my rights, railroad me in court, hit me with antisemitic, homophobic, racist and sexist comments on my way to the Chapel, Put me in constant danger….but please, please please oh please…don’t ever take away my music again. Air, water, food + music and I’m all good. You can keep your bogus “rights” if I can tap a drum pad in my cell and listen to awful top 40 radio…it beats NOTHING. Anything trumps nothing. QED.
Getting “The Blues” is usually misinterpreted as “being sad” or “depressed” or “whining about being underpriviledged or lonely” – through song. INCORRECT. That’s called “Mainstream Country Music.” Blues can express a wide range of emotion; particularly love.
As Rancid reminds us “When I got The Music, I got a place to go.” Nothing sad about that.
RIP B.B. King 1925 (est.) – 2015.
Side note: a work of historical fiction that takes place in the US during WWII starring Bill Feynman will publish soon. I’ve completed the first six chapters. It is my first attempt at such a form of writing; I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.
Much Love – Tapper