At the time of his death BB King was hailed as one of the all time greatest blues artists. In a few decades, however, he was controversial. In European criticism he was seen long as an apostate from the correct line. He played in the tuxedo, he saw a horn section. B B King was also an unconcealed audience suitors. He departed thus from the strict line proclaimed by the purist critics away from the African-American scene.
Though the criticism accepted of course BB King’s early recordings, those he made before his style inspired young English guitar geniuses Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and Jeff Beck.
As many other blues artists was perceived BB King as a singer with the guitar by his African-American audience. B B King also had an archetypal blue background. He grew up on a plantation in Mississippi. He picked cotton, but he also advanced to the tractor driver, before he left the cotton fields of the music. He began the course on Beale Street in Memphis; the initials stood for “Beale Street Boy”. His first hit got BB King in 1951 at age 26 with his interpretation of a Lowell Fulson song.
In the early recordings struck by the technically skilled singer BB King was. He had a larger range than most blues singers. He laid too happy far up in the registry, which differed from current patterns forming singer Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin ‘Wolf.
In his guitar linked the young BB King also more other traditions than what other blues guitarists did. He listened to country radio in his youth and was impressed by how the country guitarists bowed tone. But B B King also took impressions of jazz. Guitarist Charlie Christian is a given point of connection, but also the swing era saxophonists can be heard BB King singing guitar with strong vibratoeffekter.
Although BB King had a representative blue background, he was critical of the usual descriptions of this. As early as 1966 he criticized in an interview image of blues artists as “illiterate and dirty”. He added: “The blues had made me a better living than any I’ve had, so this was when i really put my fight on. A few whites gave me the blah-blah about the blues singers, but mostly it was Negro people, and that’s why it hurt. “
At this time was regarded then blues singers of the African-American audience as a singer with a guitar, no matter how technically driven and personal guitarists they were. It was only with the British blues wave years around 1965, they fully recognized as instrumentalists. It abounds indeed of anecdotes about how bad the black Americans felt that the young Englishmen were; “They wanted to play the blues so bands, And they played it so bad,” said, for example, Sonny Boy Williamson since he kompats the Yardbirds on a tour of the UK, but the British blues wave also gave a feedback effect. With musicians like Albert King and Freddie King, we can hear the previously distinct entonsspelet gave room for further tonflöden and how they rested on the tone in a different way than before. The change was not as clear of BB King, but it can also be discerned in him.
The European blues critics considered that the young British were impersonal plagiarists, while the African-American performers were authentic. The cult of the authentic blues also influenced blues understanding for more than 60 years. The picture was drafted by John and Alan Lomax already in the 30s, when they made their field recordings. They were invaluable, but their idea of the blues as a folk, a genuine expression of the African-American experience, has also led to expulsions.
Father and son Lomax placed the blues birthplace to the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, not the large delta, but a bit north to the small land area between the Mississippi and Yazoo River. Contemporary blues, for example from Texas (Blind Willie Johnson) and Georgia (Blind Willie McTell) fall outside the spotlight, as well as the blues developed in the Piedmont region, the area between the Atlantic coast and the Appalachian Mountains from New Jersey down to Alabama. It is characterized among other things by a guitar with roots in ragtime and classic country music fingerpicking technique on the banjo. Even a few decades ago was called the style of folk blues where the prefix indicated slightly less authentic, a non-desired effect of white rock music.
This type of exclusions from the “true blues” is unfortunate. It distorts the image of the efforts of young European enthusiasts made, as well as the value of the music that is also created by White American and Canadian blues musicians; that the acoustic blues still kept alive is because white musicians Rory Block, Steve James and Bonnie Raitt.
And it distorts the image of BB King. His guitar elegance deviated from the more rough-barked Chicago blouse in the 40s and 50s. His recordings in 1970 was dismissed as being too influenced soul, and his whole appearance was considered then as commercial.
Though the blues has always been a commercial music. No African-American blues pioneer was idealistic. The only question is how these commercial mechanisms should be valued. We can also think about what right a European criticism sits in judgment on American blues musicians like to broaden the musical scope.
BB King was not the only black blues musician who criticized the lack of orthodoxy in the 60s and 70s quarters. A then young guitarist Luther Allison Suspicion was cast because he recorded several discs on the label of Tamla Motown, since he debuted on the more pure blue company Delmark. Freddie King’s collaboration with Leon Russell on his company Shelter resulted in three of his best records (“Getting ready”, “Texas Cannonball” and “Woman across the river”), but even after more than 40 years, they are not fully recognized by the traditional blues criticism.
Here we can also see intersection of BB King’s music, as well as in the valuation of it. As long as he was primarily a concern for the black audience in the United States, accepted his technical refinement and commercial form of address even the purist criticism. But since his music was changed by impulses from other, contemporary African-American popular music, and from the British wave was considered the flattened and less authentic.
The problem is of course the very idea of the “authentic” expression, or the romantic idea that music has a skin color. BB King was not the latter ever a problem. He worked as effortlessly with white as black musicians, with Britons as well as Americans.
Nobody can question the sincerity when BB King together with Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks and many others played “Sweet Home Chicago” at the White House for Barack Obama, who also took a refrain – a few lines additionally in antiphonal with BB King.
For myself I see continuity of BB Kings music. In essence, he was true to the style he developed in the 50s and early 60s; the changes were not stylistically very radical. The big change occurred, rather than the last few decades when the voice is not kept in the higher tones and fingers no longer moved as effortlessly over the guitar neck, thus a kind of changes that came of age rather than the musical direction.
Then you could also BB King celebrate his 80th birthday with a record that “BB King & amp; Friends “. Among his duet partners included Gloria Estefan, Sheryl Crow and Elton John, but also leading blues guitarists as Billy Gibbons and Clapton.
But the album is, despite its qualities, an odd bird in BB King’s production. One way to follow him through the many live CDs he gave out. They are of a consistently high standard. The first is the most famous: “Live at the Regal,” recorded in 1964 and released the following year. In a small group with piano, bass, drums and two tenor shears got BB King to a condensed and compressed expressive power. The disc has been emblematic status, but I have always thought that “Blues is King” (1967) and especially “Live at the Cook County Jail” (1971) is even better, not least by virtue of the intense guitar playing and a superb version of “The Thrill Is Gone”, which in 1970 gave BB King his first big hit outside the demarcated blues scene.
In 1980, the live doubles “Now Appearing at the Ole Miss”, as critics then hardly lacked words to express their lead before. Apart from some simplistic vocal mannerisms of some tracks, it’s a live album which literally snorts of vitality and barely restrained power of expression.
For the fine live discs also include albums with Bobby Bland from the 70s, where Blands vocal technique with its distinct elements of gospel music and a softer jazz idiom gave a broader and even more relaxed expression. Even then followed a spate of live recordings, the last recorded in 2011.
BB King gave total out some sixty discs. It goes without saying that all was not as good; for my part, I can manage without his records from the last twenty years – but the tastefully laid-back “Blues on the Bayou” from 1998. I am looking for I’d rather backward in his catalog, in addition to the aforementioned live discs to the first lp discs “Singin ‘ the blues “and” The Blues “from the late 50′s, the” Blues In My Heart “from 1962 records as” Lucille “,” Indianola Mississippi Seeds “and” LA midnight “from the years around in 1970.
BB King was, to reconnect with their rightful acclaim, one of the all time great blues artists, both as a singer and as one of the tradition’s premier innovator of guitar technique. And now he’s gone. The thrill is gone.