King of the Blues
Daniel de Vise
‘Without a doubt the most important artist the blues has ever produced’ Eric Clapton
‘No one did more to spread the gospel of the blues’ President Barack Obama
‘One part of me says, “Yes, of course I can play.” But the other part of me says, “Well, I wish I could just do it like B.B. King.”‘ John Lennon
Riley ‘Blues Boy’ King (1925-2015) was born into deep poverty in Mississippi. Wrenched away from his sharecropper father, B.B. lost his mother at age ten, leaving him more or less alone. Music became his emancipation from exhausting toil in the fields. Inspired by a local minister’s guitar and by the records of Blind Lemon Jefferson and T-Bone Walker, B.B. taught his guitar to sing in the unique solo style that, along with his relentless work ethic and humanity, became his trademark. In turn, generations of artists claimed him as inspiration, from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Carlos Santana and the Edge.
King of the Blues presents the vibrant life and times of a trailblazing giant. Witness to dark prejudice and lynching in his youth, B.B. performed incessantly (more than fifteen thousand concerts in ninety countries over nearly sixty years) – in some real way his means of escaping his past. His career roller-coasted between adulation and relegation, but he always rose back up. At the same time, his story reveals the many ways record companies took advantage of artists, especially those of colour.
Daniel de Vise has interviewed almost every surviving member of B.B. King’s inner circle – family, band members, retainers, managers and more – and their voices and memories enrich and enliven the life of this Mississippi blues titan, whom his contemporary Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland simply called ‘the man.’
King of the Blues . . . tracks B.B. King's multifarious career with such efficiency and clarity that surely little of biographical significance remains to be said. . . . [T]he evaluations of King's recordings are comprehensive and almost always judicious. * Mojo * B.B. King, one of the great bluesmen of all time. Can any other person hold one note on the guitar and make it say so much? Daniel de Vise's book on B.B. King is a great read. -- Joan Armatrading B.B. King is one of, if not the best of, America's treasured heroes! Mr. de Vis e meticulously dives deep into why, what and how young Riley, who graced this planet from a world of extreme complications, was able through his talent, relentless drive and humility, to rise to the deserved title 'King of the Blues.' Get your records out and enjoy the read. I did!!! -- Robert Cray The name B.B. King now resonates with longevity amongst blues lovers and music enthusiasts alike. With more than six decades of noteworthy expressions of a great American art form, B.B. King's guitar playing and singing hold a strong place with an unmistakable sound of his professional and effervescent personality. Get a head start within these fine pages for an intimate trip with B.B. King's lifetime attachment to creativity. B.B. is truly King of the Blues, oh yeah! -- Billy Gibbons, guitarist and singer, ZZ Top Like hopping onboard B.B.'s tour bus for a ride straight to the heart of the blues. Told me about the B.B. I knew and a few other B.B.'s as well. I loved them all. -- Shemekia Copeland, three-time Grammy-nominated recording artist B.B. King was a marvelous man and an international ambassador for the blues. King of the Blues tells the extraordinary story of his life in great detail, and a wonderful story it is. A fitting tribute to a great artist. -- John Landis, director of THE BLUES BROTHERS B.B. King was the stone truth, the man who took down home uptown and, yes, the undisputed king of the blues. This, his first full and authoritative biography, is both right on time and long overdue. Dan de Vise has done a solid for music lovers everywhere. -- Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning national columnist and author Extremely thoughtful, thorough and insightful. -- David Ritz, biographical collaborator with B.B. King, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin and biographer of Marvin Gaye De Vise writes beautifully. His command of narrative is compelling. The level of detail he amassed is awesome. -- Charles Sawyer, author of THE ARRIVAL OF B.B. KING Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist De Vise...amply demonstrates his masterful storytelling and research skills in this definitive look at legendary blues musician B.B. King (1925-2015). Informed by his conversations with "dozens of surviving friends and relatives, bandmates and producers," De Vise provides an intimate portrait of a cultural luminary "whose achievements transcended his genre." ...Even readers who aren't fans of the blues will be engrossed by this nuanced look at an American icon. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * As blues royalty and one of the 20th century's most influential musicians, B.B. King (1925-2015) has long deserved a well-considered biography that places his achievements in a cultural and historical context. This is it. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist de Vise deftly interweaves tales of American history, pop culture, racial relations, music theory, and much more to fully demonstrate King's significance...The thrill is here, as B.B. King finally gets his due in this first meticulous account of his historic life. * Kirkus Reviews (starred review) * The definitive biography of blues master Riley 'B.B.' King . . . Engaging. The book expertly interweaves King's music career into the U.S. social fabric, especially the civil rights movement. With this fast-moving, informative, evenhanded and exhaustive biography, de Vise vividly captures King's life. * Library Journal (starred review) *
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