Yesterday, after a decade long battle with diabetes, one of the greatest blues musicians of all time, B.B. King, died at the age of 89. The legendary musician had been experiencing increased issues with his health related to his diabetic condition, having had to cancel eight tour dates last October due to dehydration and exhaustion. Diagnosed with diabetes 30 years ago, King was hospitalized last month due to similar symptoms. His death was confirmed in relation to these continued health issues today by his attorney, Brent Bryson.
B.B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16th, 1925 in Berclair, Mississippi. As a young child, King first began singing as a member of the gospel choir of the Elkhorn Baptist Church in Kilmichael, Mississippi. He also began playing guitar at an early age, purchasing his first one at the age of 12. King was heavily influenced by the American Delta Blues guitarist and singer, Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White, who was his mother's first cousin. King followed White to Memphis, Tennessee in 1943, where he began to perform more frequently and establish himself and his unique blues guitar sound.
Though King did not experience immediate success with his initial recordings, he gained increased visibility and popularity throughout the 1950s and 1960s, performing as an opening act on The Rolling Stone's 1969 American tour. With his Grammy win in 1970 for his version of "The Thrill is Gone," King became a hit on both the Pop and R&B charts. In 1980, King was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, followed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 in acknowledgement of his unique contribution to the musical community.
From the 1980s onward until his death, King maintained a highly active musical career, touring and performing regularly. He told the Rolling Stone in an interview in 2013 that, "As you get older, your fingers sometimes swell. But I've missed 18 days in 65 years. Sometimes guys will just take off; I've never done that. If I'm booked to play, I go and play."
After the aforementioned tour cancellations and periods of hospitalization, King announced that he would be going into hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was there that he died last night, May 14th, at around 9:30pm. The world has indeed suffered a great loss with King's death- not only as a result of his musical contribution and skill, but also his famous kindness and generosity. He will be truly missed by those who knew him- both personally, and through his music.
To discover his life's timeline, send a condolence, and to view pictures and videos, visit B.B. King's Memorial.