Feel B.B. King's healing power of the blues

By by dianna wray
Oct. 5, 2011 at 5:05 a.m.

Close your eyes. Go on, squinch them up tight. Now, call up that memory of that one loss, that aching emptiness you woke up with that day, and how it felt to have that emotion cut through you.

Have you got that feeling? Now, quick, go turn on the blues, and, yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but start healing. That's the power of the blues, and nobody plays the blues like B.B. King.

We all have "those days." You know, the kind where your shoes are too tight, your thickest coat can't keep you warm and even your dog doesn't seem to like you - the empty days, let's call them.

In my case, I'm usually just being whiny, but either way, these are the days I put on the blues. The sounds of Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Buddy Guy and, of course, B.B. King fill my ears, and suddenly, the looming problems I've been facing are shrunk down to normal size.

I love them all, but B.B. King is one of my favorites because not only did he live the music, he is still living and playing it.

King has the typical bluesman's story - born in Mississippi, he lost his mother before he was 10 years old and grew up struggling to scrape by when he got his first guitar. He learned to play as a teenager singing gospel during the day and playing the blues at night. He said gospel got him a pat on the head, but the blues got him a dime, so he went with the blues.

I've been lucky enough to see him live, and it's an incredible experience. Watching his large sure-fingered hands pull all of that music out of his guitar, Lucille, is a sight to see - genius right there in front of you.

At 76, King is one of the last bluesmen whose music is rooted in the Mississippi Delta Blues tradition, and he's counted one of the greatest guitarists to ever live.

King tours about 250 days a year on average and he's swinging through Houston on Friday, so don't take my word for it, go see for yourself.

The blues are a powerful thing, because even in your darkest moments, the music is a rope to grab onto, something to pull you through. When I'm in a no-good mood, it's King and the guys who paved the way before him who pull me out of it. Nothing seems so terrible after listening to King pull those sounds out of his guitar. The misery may come around, and that aching emptiness may be there, but when you're in the presence of King, you know you aren't alone.



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