The music world has lost an icon. Blues legend B.B. King, 89, died Thursday night in his Las Vegas home after a decades-long battle with diabetes. Known as the “King of the Blues,” the performer leaves behind one of the most impressive music legacies in history with a hall-of-fame career spanning more than 60 years.
King was born Riley B. King on a cotton plantation in Mississippi in 1925. After growing up a choirboy, King moved to Memphis to pursue his music career, releasing his first single, “Miss Martha King,” in 1949. The song launched a career that would earn the innovative blues artist 15 Grammys, a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a reputation as one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
King’s attorney Brent Bryson announced the blues musician, who was famous for the Gibson guitar he nicknamed “Lucille,” died peacefully in his sleep. Bryson said King’s family is preparing for his funeral. The guitarist canceled the rest of his 2014 tour in October after collapsing during a scheduled concert in Chicago.
In honor of the legendary musician, here are five songs that help illustrate B.B. King’s indelible mark on music.
‘The Thrill Is Gone’
“The Thrill Is Gone” is the definitive B.B. King song. The reworked Roy Hawkins cover, released by King in 1970, was easily the blue guitarist’s biggest hit. The precise, restrained guitar playing on the track defines King’s signature, sleek style.
Watch King perform “The Thrill Is Gone” below:
‘Three O’Clock Blues’
“Miss Martha King” may have been King’s first single, but “Three O’Clock Blues” was his first hit. The blues classic also features one of King’s best vocal performances.
Watch King perform “Three O’Clock Blues” below:
‘Every Day I Have the Blues’
King became famous for opening his live performances with this track, originally released in 1955. The smooth horn arrangement in the background makes this one of King’s most danceable tracks.
Watch King perform “Every Day I Have the Blues” below:
‘Sweet Little Angel’
In 1956, King reworked this blues standard, changing the name from “Black Angel Blues” and turning the track into a bona fide radio hit.
Watch King perform “Sweet Little Angel” below:
‘You Upset Me Baby’
This 1954 track, which became King’s fourth No. 1 hit on the R&B charts, sees the blues icon at his most playful. King singing about his love interest’s measurements was the original “Baby Got Back.”
Watch King perform “You Upset Me Baby” below:
What is your favorite B.B. King song? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.