I spent a lot of time watching music videos in 1996. My musical taste had not fully matured at that point in my existence. Sure, I could dig a Beatles hit here or a Pearl Jam cut there. But I was still into a lot of things that I would fully repudiate later. In 1996, I thought I would love Donna Lewis always forever. I hopped aboard (the train) and rode it with the Quad City DJ’s. C’mon, who didn’t? It all came back to me now with Celine Dion. And yes, I Macarena’d my skinny little butt off on the floor at the school dance. That, after all, was going to be the #1 party hit for the next century, if not the next millennium. Something I did not listen to, however, was the blues.
Outside of school and my after-school activities – I was a drama club dork – listening to music was kind of my life at that point. And if I wasn’t blasting a new top 100 hit on the radio as I furiously pounded the buttons of my Super Nintendo, I was watching music videos. While I ate dinner, did my homework, brushed my teeth, it didn’t matter. I wanted my MTV. I lived for Vh-1. Sometimes the videos would sort of blend together into one long ultra-cosmic configuration of sprawling grunge noise. Was that Bush or Seven Mary Three snarling at the microphone now? Did it matter? It was all groovy, although none of it necessarily riveted.
But one day I heard a voice emanating from the television. It was a voice unlike any I’d ever heard on the music video stations before. It was a voice that sounded like this:
(first 40 seconds)
Whoa – The Primitive Radio Gods – what a voice!
It turned out it wasn’t anyone from Primitive Radio Gods at all. It was a sample of another man’s voice: a legend, a god amongst blues musicians. I had previously known nothing about this man, but that voice – it was electric, it was uncanny, it was a miracle!
That man was B.B. King.
B.B. King is undisputedly one of, if not the greatest, blues musician ever to mark the genre. Perhaps Joe Bonamassa puts it best:
He is the blues, the blues is him.
Sure, the Primitive Radio Gods were cool. They were hip. They were catchy. But this, this was something special:
This is what it’s all about. Such passion. such emotion. Such fire. Few musicians of the last century come close to matching what B.B. King brought to his artistry. This is Jimi Hendrix stuff. This is Miles Davis stuff. This is Bob Dylan stuff. That voice. That guitar. That music. In fact, I’ll go one further than Joe.
B.B. King is music. Music is B.B. King.