Riley B. King, the legendary guitarist known as B.B. King, whose velvety voice and economical, expressive style brought blues from the margins to the mainstream, died Thursday night at the age of 89.
King, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, had said in May he was in hospice care at his home after being hospitalized in April with dehydration related to diabetes.
King’s death was confirmed late on Thursday on a Facebook page linked to the website of his daughter Claudette.
The Mississippi native’s reign as “king of the blues” lasted more than six decades and straddled two centuries, influencing a generation of rock and blues musicians, from Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Sheryl Crow and John Mayer.
Born on a Mississippi plantation to sharecropper parents, he outlived his post-World War Two blues peers – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker – to see the rough music born in the cotton fields of the segregated South reach a new audience.
King will forever be associated with his trademark black Gibson guitars, all of which he christened “Lucille” in recollection of a woman who two men fought over in 1949 in an Arkansas dance hall where he was playing.
The men knocked over a kerosene lamp, setting fire to the building. King risked his life to retrieve his $30 guitar.
In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time ranked King at No. 3, behind only Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman.