Why I Sing the Blues: The Thrill is Gone, B.B. King Takes Lucille Home

The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you’ll be sorry someday

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away from me
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away from me
Although, I’ll still live on
But so lonely I’ll be

The thrill is gone
It’s gone away for good
The thrill is gone baby
It’s gone away for good
Someday I know I’ll be open armed baby
Just like I know a good man should

You know I’m free, free now baby
I’m free from your spell
Oh I’m free, free, free now
I’m free from your spell
And now that it’s all over
All I can do is wish you well

When I heard the news that B.B. King had passed on, a piece of me passed on as well. B.B passed at the age of 89 from strokes related to his diabetes. He lived a life that brought great joy to many of us and actually introduced many of us to the Blues. He was a true American icon who will always be the face of the Blues.

My daughter, Caitlin called and asked me how I was doing once she had learned of B.B. King‘s passing. Caitlin was concerned how I was handling his death and wanted to make sure I was doing ok. I was down as sadness filled my heart thinking about B.B. King‘s departure from this life.  I loved listening to B.B. Without any doubt B.B. was one of my very favorite guitarists and clearly a master of the blues. His mix of showmanship while picking on Lucille is something that left me spellbound. He was and will always be legendary as he brought the blues genre to the mainstream masses. He seemed like a humble man who loved singing and playing the blues.

When I was growing up, I never really had the opportunity to listen to much music. In the household that I lived, any and all guitar centric music was considered the “devil’s” music so my access to radio and what was listened to on the radio was tightly controlled which only led to resentment and rebellion. Somehow the crooners like Frank Sinatra were ok, it was the rock and roll bands that were considered devilish.

As I progressed into my teen years, I found secretive ways to listen to the “devil’s” music and discovered that I liked rock and roll and the blues. Thus began my lifelong passion for music. During that time, I found out that I loved the blues genre as played by Mr. B.B. King and I became a lifelong fan. My one regret is never seeing B.B. live. It always seemed that every time he hit the Phoenix area it would be in the winter months and I would be on the road officiating basketball. I spent many a night watching B.B. perform on shows like Austin City Limits and all I could do is just move with the music. His wrinkling of the face and bending his guitar would have my feet a moving and sure enough the air guitar would break out and I’d be doing my best B.B. sitting on the sofa.

I have read B.B.’s autobiography and I highly recommend reading Blues All Around Me. Born as Riley King, he became B.B. for Blues Boy. How appropriate. As B.B. lets us know, A guitar’s “rounded shape and lovely curves remind me of the body of a beautiful girl,” he says, “I wanna run up and put my arms around [it].”  No wonder B.B. could make that Lucille sing. Who could get away with singing, Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could me jivin’ too. His story about how his guitar got named Lucille is classic B.B. King.

If you have never seen B.B. play then you are missing out. Check out  his many live performances found on YouTube. His classic “The Thrill Is Gone” was’t even a song he even wrote but he owned it no matter who sang it because Lucille’s sound expresses such sorrow. It will always give me goose bumps. One of my favorite versions of the song is when he is playing and singing with Tracy Chapman. It is a classic video when B.B. was about 70. Very cool version that always get my blood flowing.

B.B. collaborated with many a musician including Eric Clapton and Bono. His influence continues on. The song written by U2 and performed with BBWhen Love Comes To Town” is something special. You can catch the song on Rattle and Hum but you can also listen to the first time U2 and B.B. played the song at a concert in Texas from The Joshua Tree Tour in 1987. It is gritty but I think the guitar in it is special and all you have to do is close your eyes and you can see B.B. getting into it. Completely different lyrics with an extended cut of the song. Listen close to Bono.

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town, I’m gonna catch that train
When love comes to town, I’m gonna catch that flame
Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
But I did what I did before love came to town

There are so many clips of B.B. playing live that it is really hard to pick one out but all his songs came alive when he got up and played. He continued playing almost a hundred shows a year right up to him taking ill. B.B. had to sit down and play as he no longer could stand and play but his fingers were still something to watch as he would make the guitar sing. I think a must see video is watching B.B. play at Sing Sing Prison on “How Blue Can You Get“. It is funny and really showcases his talent as a musician and entertainer.

I gave you a brand new Ford 
But you said: I want a Cadillac 
I bought you a ten dollar dinner 
and you said: thanks for the snack 
I let you live in my pent house 
you said it just a shack 
I gave seven children 
and now you wanna give them back 
I said I’ve been down hearted baby 
ever since the day we met 
our love is nothing but the blues 
baby, how blue can you get?

One of his best recorded albums is B.B. King Live in Cook County Jail. Recorded in 1970 and released in 1971 the album is a classic. You can get it on iTunes.

B.B. always seemed to other music stars playing with him live. I think one of the best examples of this is this clip of “Why I Sing The Blues“. He has Phil Collins playing the drums and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton plus Albert King on guitars.

You might want to find the documentary of B.B.’s life on DVD: The Life of Riley. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman with a plethora of artists describing what B.B.’s music meant to them. A must see to understand the man. Yes The Thrill is Gone. Rest in Peace B.B. King. You will be greatly missed!

About timfruth

Longtime public educator who retired. Love the outdoors and rapidly adjusting to a new me.
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