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B.B. King Dies at 89

The “King of the Blues” performed an estimated 15,000 shows, influenced generations

B.B. King
Herbie Hancock, B.B. King and U2's Bono; Oct. 26, 2008, Los Angeles
B.B. King

B.B. King, the undisputed “King of the Blues” for more than six decades, died May 14, at his Las Vegas home. The cause of death was a series of small strokes attributable to his battle with type 2 diabetes; King had been in hospice care since last month. King, who was 89, still maintained an active touring schedule into late last year.

King brought electric blues guitar-he long ago nicknamed his ever-present Gibson hollow-body guitars Lucille-into the mainstream, his dynamic single-note, fat-toned, vibrato-heavy style of playing embraced by rock musicians as well as fellow bluesmen. Describing King to Rolling Stone, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons said, “There was a turning point, around the time of [the 1965 album] Live at the Regal, when his sound took on a personality that is untampered-with today, this roundish tone, where the front pickup is out of phase with the rear pickup. And B.B. still plays a Gibson amplifier that is long out of production. His sound comes from that combination. It’s just B.B.”

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