Blues great B.B. King has died at the age of 89 after being ill for some time, it’s been confirmed.
His lawyer Brent Bryson reported that he died peacefully in his sleep at home in Las Vegas.
Born Riley B. King in 1925, he was known as one of the Three Kings Of Blues Guitar alongside Albert King (1923-1992) and Freddie King (1934-1976).
His single-string vibrato style, influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, is said to have influenced most of the guitarists who followed him.
King’s career began in 1943 as a guitarist with the Famous St John’s Quartet in his home state of Mississippi. He later played with Bukka White in Tennessee before starting solo work in Arkansas in 1948. He was soon a regular DJ on Tennessee radio, using the name Blues Boy, which led to his onstage monicker.
His first record was launched in 1949 before he signed with RMP Records and worked with producer Sam Phillips. His first hit was 1952’s 3 O’Clock Blues and a string of successes followed, including a Grammy Award in 1970 for his version of The Thrill Is Gone. He reached a new audience with When Love Comes To Town, a collaboration with U2, in 1988.
He released 44 studio albums during his career, the last of which was 2008’s Grammy-winning One Kind Favor.
He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 1980, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987, and the R&B Music Hall Of Fame in 2014. He’s listed as the third-greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
King believed in hard work and practice, once saying: “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” On the genre he loved, he said: “The blues? It’s the mother of American music. That’s what it is – the source.”
He had continued touring until falling ill several months ago. Following a minor heart attack last month he announced he was “in hospice care in Las Vegas” and added: “Thanks to all for your well wishes and prayers.”