The world lost one of the great bluesmen of all time on Thursday. The official B.B. King website is reporting that he died peacefully in his sleep May 14. He was 89.
King, pictured here with his beloved guitar "Lucille," was one of the most influential guitarists to have ever played. He is ranked number 17 in Gibson's "Top 50 Guitarists of all time," while Rolling Stone named him number 6 on their list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time. (He was previously ranked number 3 in the 2003 version of the same list.) He was also recognized as an artist outside of the industry. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Arts. In 2006, President George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
No matter what the official lists said, King ranked first in the hearts of countless musicians and music lovers, many of whom have taken to social media and the web to pay tribute to their hero. President Bill Clinton remembered the thrill of playing with the "King of Blues." President Barack Obama issued an official statement through the White House press room, declaring, "There's going to be oe killer blues session in heaven tonight." And on Facebook, Guitar legend Eric Clapton posted a video memorialzing his hero.
"This music is almost a thing of the past now and there are not many left to play it in a pure way like B.B. did," Clapton says. "He was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music and I thank him from the bottom of my heart."
RIP B.B. King.
The Thrill Is Gone (Live at Montreux 1993)