Interview: B.B. King - JazzWax

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February 08, 2011


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Joel Lewis

Great post (as well as WSJ story). I remember that through most of the 70s, B.B. King was a popular mainstream draw and played Vegas a lot in the wake of The Thrill Is Gone (really one of the great singles of that period) -- my square parents had friends who were fans!

As much as he often talks about his reception to white audiences, he will sometimes speak with great bitterness about his abandonnment by black audiences. He has talked about being mocked onstage by M.C.s for being "country" and playing to increasingly diminishing audieces as the black population became solidly urban & removed from southern folkways until he was discovered by white audiences -- thanks in part to guys like Eric Clapton, who would often say things in interviews like "If you think I'm good, you should listen to B.B. King" It has also heloed that King has had a nearly 50 year relationship with a major label (MCA, formerly ABC) that has kept much of his catalog in print & promoted him to popaudiences (his best seller is his duet record w/ Clapton, which sold something like 5 million copies). A nice bons is that the BB King club (at least at Times Squre) is a pleasant & reasonably priced venue to hear a suprisingly wide range of music (including cover bands of every stripe!)

Doug Zielke

Excellent read! Could there be a better person to interview than the great B.B. King? Good job, Marc.

Al H.O.

This is a nice interview with B.B. King. For me, contrary to B.B. and others, I do not see nor hear a strong connection between the music that I love (namely blues, classic R&B, and soul) to jazz. Now, I like it when a blues musician plays "jazzy", because there is some feeling in there, but jazz does not grab me with the emotion of these other musical forms. Jazz is not an improvement over blues, it's a totally different kind of music, as is classical and folk. While jazz passes me by, I can feel the blues and am always ready to hear or play the blues. I do appreciate jazz as well as the many other kinds of music, and they allow blues to stand out in stark contrast as a unique form of expression. It is very satisfying to hear B.B. King sing and play the blues and nothing but the blues. My favorite B.B. King CD: "Anthology".

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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