In 2007, I was a poor musician trying find my way in the world. I had just moved to San Diego and didn’t know anyone except my roommate Daniel, who was kind enough to keep me company when I went to little open mics and gigs where no one showed up. He was a student at SDSU at the time and one day he came to me and said, “BB King is going to be playing at my school tonight!” Immediately, I knew I was going, but I had no way to actually get in, considering my financial situation. Luckily, the concert was outdoors, so we sat on the balcony of Love Library listening to one of the most influential guitarists ever play some of the most thrilling and pure blues I’d ever heard (and likely ever hear).
After the show was other, I happened to notice that there was a figure being wheeled up to the tour buses that lined the artist entrance of the Open Air Theater. Like a giddy schoolgirl, I dashed over to the cordoned-off area and screamed, “Thank you, BB!” Without hesitation, the figure replied, “No, thank you!” For a brief moment in time, the man who inspired legends such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so many more, and was a legend in his own right, acknowledged my existence. To me, it was the most exhilarating moment of my musical life, even as superficial or mundane as the interaction may have been.
When I heard the news that BB had passed away yesterday, I sat and stared at a poster I’ve had of him hanging by the front door of my apartment listening to Live at the Regal, perhaps the greatest live blues recording ever. I came to a comforting realization that while he was a blues musician, he played with unwavering joy and life, and his love for music would continue to inspire and influence people until the end of time.
In an interview he did with PBS in the 1980’s, BB said, “I like to think that my time and my talent is always there for the people that need it.” Thankfully for us all, it is.