B.B. King at the 1980 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Here lies Arthur, king once and king to be … Two weeks ago, Beale Street blues legend Riley “B.B.” King passed away at 89. King was the most recognizable face of 20th-century blues — and not just because he outlived all other legends. His is the foundation upon which all 12-bar blues and rock ‘n’ roll are built. A grit-and-grind musician’s musician, B.B. King (along with Lucille, the name of all his guitars) amassed more than 20 years of recording under his belt before his big break, opening for the Rolling Stones in 1969. Here we pay tribute with some of our favorite King classics, blues standards and blues-inspired riffs of the past century. Of course, giving props to blues-influenced sounds underlines the fact that all modern genres — folk, rock, pop, soul and R&B — are inspired by the blues. It’s the many-tentacled tree through which all 20th-century music originated and, along with jazz, a genuine American art form.