Blues legend B.B. King is gone. The man credited with bringing blues from the margins of music to the mainstream died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas.
The 89-year-old "King of the Blues" announced two weeks ago that he was in home hospice care. He'd suffered from Type 2 diabetes for years. The 15-time Grammy winner was the father of 15 children from numerous relationships.
King was known as a tireless performer and continued playing tour dates, including 100 performances last year. He inspired and performed with a number of high-profile younger guitarists including Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Eric Clapton and BB King made an album together in 2000 called Riding With The King. Clapton paid tribute to his friend in a video he posted to Facebook:
BB King a dear friend and inspiration to me....Posted by Eric Clapton on Friday, May 15, 2015
Riley B. King was born on a cotton plantation in rural Mississippi on September 16th, 1925. He was 12 when he got his first guitar and he soon started playing for dimes on street corners. He went to Memphis, Tennessee in the late '40s and while hosting a radio show called King's Spot he became known as Beale Street Blues Boy King. The nickname soon was iconically shortened to B.B. King had his first hit record in 1952 when "3 O'Clock Blues" was number one on the R&B chart for four months.
He won his first Grammy in 1971 for "The Thrill Is Gone" and his last in 2009 for the album "One Kind Favor." He was a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Presidential Medal of Freedom. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
King often performed at prisons around the country, saying he just wanted to bring a little happiness to men and women behind bars. He supported a Little Rock, Arkansas nonprofit that provides musical instruments and instruction to underprivileged children and was a longtime advocate and endorser for diabetes treatment.
Following word of his death, celebrities from Ringo Starr to Gene Simmons to Brad Paisley and plenty of big names in between took to Twitter to mourn the loss of a legend. Lenny Kravitz seemed to sum up what so many were feeling, tweeting simply "BB, anyone could play a thousand notes and never say what you said in one."
Sad to hear B.B. King has left us. I loved collaborating with him, loved his music, & his spirit. He changed music forever. God bless him.— Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) May 15, 2015
Photo: Getty Images