B.B. King, a blues legend who had been in the music industry since the late 1940s, died in his sleep May 14 at age 89, reportedly from multiple strokes that reduced blood due to his Type 2 diabetes. King was loved by many, and thousands of fans and celebrities gathered to mourn his death, though some of his family members claim foul play was involved in his passing.
Despite some family drama that is marring what should be a time of remembrance and mourning, we can’t forget that King was a blues great who influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and many, many others. Here are five things you may not know about “The King of the Blues.”
The name for the guitars began back in 1949 when he was performing at a venue that caught on fire. He went back inside to get his $30 guitar and later found out that two men passed away inside of the building after fighting over a lady named Lucille. The name was a reminder to him not to ever run inside of a burning building or fight over a woman.
During the 1930s and 1940s, blues music was believed to be “the devil’s music.” King’s family would not allow him to sing the blues due to their Southern-rooted religious beliefs. In spite of that, he went on to become known as “The King of the Blues.”
King, who was raised by his grandmother, worked as a sharecropper where he picked cotton on a tenant farm in Mississippi.
King cancelled eight tour dates last year due to exhaustion and dehydration. In a statement to Rolling Stone a year earlier, he said, “I’m slower. As you get older, your fingers sometimes swell. But I’ve missed 18 days in 65 years. Sometimes guys will just take off; I’ve never done that. If I’m booked to play, I go and play.”
Back in 1990, King was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. “I didn’t think too much about it, honestly, because I was not familiar with diabetes,” he once told Health Update magazine. “I had to be educated on what it meant. I started to read literature about it, and I started taking medication for it.”
Initially, no investigation was launched into B.B. King’s death. Two of his daughters, Karen Williams and Patty King believe that he was poisoned by his own associates. In a statement, the sisters said, “I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances to induce his premature death … I believe my father was murdered.” The initial autopsy results revealed that there was no evidence that validated the accusations, and the complete forensic results will take another six to eight weeks.
Regardless of what the findings may be, we can all agree that the thrill is, indeed, gone.
Jae Monique is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.