Skip to comments.Blues Legend B.B. King Turns 80
Posted on 09/16/2005 9:50:45 PM PDT by pcottraux
Blues Legend B.B. King Turns 80 By OSCAR WELLS GABRIEL II, Associated Press Writer Fri Sep 16, 8:56 PM ET
WASHINGTON - They came to see B.B. King. But before the night was over, the hundreds who lined up at a bookstore in Washington D.C. could be forgiven for thinking the blues legend had really come to see them.
As the line snaked toward a table where he recently signed copies of his book, King held court, telling one fellow he wished he was still as young and handsome as he was. To a young woman he said, "There's nothing prettier than a woman with dimples." Others got a handshake or a smile as they thanked him for a song or performance that meant a lot to them.
And each got an autograph on their newly minted copy of "The B.B. King Treasures" (Bullfinch Press). Around his neck hung his latest honor: a medallion from the Library of Congress proclaiming him a "Living Legend." Though deserving of the title, King seems more resigned that proud.
"At 80," he says, "I'm not really ashamed to hear people say it."
King turned 80 on Friday. He still performs, has a CD in the works, and a museum dedicated to his life is to open next year in his native Mississippi.
For a man who has met four sitting presidents (both Bushes, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton) and one Pope (John Paul II), King says it was his home state that gave him the biggest thrill of his career so far.
On February 15, the Mississippi Senate and Gov. Haley Barbour honored him with B.B. King Day.
"I cried, because I never believed that yours truly or any black person like myself would ever be honored there as they honored me."
Despite the state's troubled racial past, King says Mississippi has gone through "quite a change," and these days he feels at home there.
His close ties to the Gulf Coast region has King worried these days, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But unlike some celebrities like the rapper Kanye West, King doesn't believe the slow response reflects a lack of sensitivity for the mostly poor and mostly black victims.
Administration officials "are doing the best they know how to do," he said. At the same time, he allows that if he were among those affected, he might feel differently.
As for those who say New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt, King takes a page out of history for his response: "Galveston (Texas) was devastated just like New Orleans is today ... it was built back and better."
"New Orleans will be built again, and better."
Though he remains popular and is widely viewed as the man who epitomizes the blues, King is not without his critics. Some detractors say he performs a derivative form of the blues; others say his brand lacks the depth it should have.
King has heard them all, and isn't fazed. He says all the naysayers do is make him feel "like I've been black twice."
While he has a ready answer for critics, King draws a blank when asked why so few African-Americans appreciate the blues. He shakes his head slowly and chuckles: "When you find out, you let me know and we'll talk about it."
At 80, one thing King does talk about is his mortality. He has diabetes and other health problems, and his walk is a slow shuffle. Asked what he'd like people to think of when they hear his name, he sees the question for what it is, an attempt to coax a comment that can be used, if needed, for his obituary. And he obliges.
"When I pass on I would like people to think of me as a guy who loved people and wanted to be loved by them. I'd like for people to think of me as a next door neighbor, one that they could trust."
I didn't realize he was that old.
"King draws a blank when asked why so few African-Americans appreciate the blues."
Now THAT is a good question.
I've seen many blues shows since the early 80s -- BB King, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown....etc.
It's a very rare occasion when I see black folks in attendance.
Well one reason is that the money is in the white clubs. In Chicago when nobody paid anything the blues was performed in the West side and down on 47th street. Then the young whites discovered it through the Butterfield Blues Band, John Mayall and such groups as the Blues Project. This set in motion the establishment of clubs in the safer areas of town such as Lincoln park and the North side in general and the pay drew the players but not the black population as a whole.
This started in the mid sixties when the whites from the U of C community discovered Theresa's.
'The Thrill Is Gone' ---- a classic.
Still, concerts aside, a larger scale question is why is the young black community not into blues? It is rare to see any young blacks who understand or appreciate the music: for a huge percentage of them, rap and hip-hop are the only music, period.
Because Blues is not a music which preaches destructive behavior and anti-social gangsterism. It is not part of the culture which promotes rebellion against the "Man" the "System" etc. The Blues is a music appreciated by the mature and does not feature the Loud, heavy beat and sadistic lyrics the young want. Nor is it really a music to dance to. It is a music of reflection and introspection to a surprising degree. And tells stories.
And it is like asking why young whites don't like Frank Sinatra in being a generational thing.
I would say that the majority of the audience at the Chicago Blues and Jazz Festivals are blacks 30 and up. With younger it is a generational thing similiar to young whites not liking Sinatra or Big Bands. Tastes change.
The audience makeup of the blues festivals I've attended (mostly in California and Washington) has been quite different. ....mostly whites between 30 and 50. But then again, I've never attended one in Chicago.
Well, that's just sad.
As a young person myself, I like blues, and jazz, and I love music that is introspective/reflexive, and thought-provoking. Actually, movie soundtracks are my fav. I don't like angry, loud, rebellion, etc. Honestly, I'd take Sinatra (or Mel Torme) over heavy metal any day.
Then again, I'm a freak.
I'm an old fart and I like it all. Even some rap I can appreciate. Some of my favorite stuff is very loud like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Clash I don't like it if it isn't played loud. But I love virtually any authentic music although the Chinese and Japanese is hard for me to appreciate.
Oh, and welcome aboard. My younger son just turned 21. He is mainly into Metallica.
Thank you. Love it here.
Well, I think it was Louis Armstrong who said, "There's two kinds of music, good and bad."
Japanese, when sang, can be a little headache inducing. Especially when they try to translate it into English. "I must protecting my heart from your faaaace..."
Honestly, I'm a little narrow-minded musically. I like the volume button up, too, but when the music itself is loud and turned up, like at a rock concert, or a young black male in a souped up car in a parking lot (everyday occurence), I want to leave.
Soundtracks and TV themes are my favorites. I don't know why. Someone else my age is listening to Metallica, while I'm listening to the theme from "The Odd Couple." Although I do appreciate a little Weird Al every now and then...that's about as noisy as I get.
In college, I would even turn the volume way down, I guess out of courtesy, in case someone down the hall could hear it or something. Most of my neighbors were not so kind.
"Weird Al is pretty funny, amazing that his father was a famous polka musician."
Actually, Weird Al was not related to the famous polka musician, but I think they were friends.
Al's real parents died via carbon dioxide poison, I think. They had a fire one night but forgot to close the chimney flue. They were found dead the next morning.
You're welcome! "mythbusters" is one of my favorite shows.
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