Posts Tagged ‘BB King’


Painting and art cannot be taught. You can save time if someone tells you to put blue and yellow together to make green, but the essence of painting is a self-disciplined activity that you have to learn by yourself.

–Romare Bearden


I came across the quote above from a painter, Romare Bearden, whose work I have admired for some time. It’s something I have known for a long time, the thing that makes this a difficult profession in which to succeed.

You can be taught certain aspects of an art form but there’s no way of learning how to make use of your own perception of things or how to make visual representations of their own feelings and emotions. Or how you react to the world. That is all internal and personally distinct.

What works for me may not work for you.

I always urge young people to try a life in art but there is no way that I can tell if they have what it takes to make a life as an artist. There are few metrics for determining one’s ability to take rejection, to allow their emotions to run free, to persevere, to sense the innate rhythms of the world or so many of the other intangibles it takes to be an artist.

But, even so, it is always worth trying.

Actually, while I believe this and could go on for some time discussing this, this was just a way to get to a short blurb that ran here a few years back.about Mr. Bearden which also acts as an introduction to a favorite song of mine. I am busy, much like when I first wrote this short entry.

Here it is:

Don’t have much of a chance this morning to write a proper post. Busy in a good way. But I came across this image above from the late painter Romare Bearden who lived from 1911 until 1988. I was going to say African-American painter as it does in most of his biographies but that kind of bugged me in the same way that bios often point out that an artist is a woman. Seems like they are creating a distinction and putting them into a sub-category for no reason at all, especially when the person in question is creating great work.

So I am just calling Mr. Bearden a painter.

And a fine one at that, one whose work always jumps into my eyes. Just plain good stuff.

Anyway this image has been sticking in my mind for about a week now and I thought it would be a great companion to some music for this Sunday Music by the one and only B.B. King. Especially since the central figure in the painting looks a little like B.B. King. I somehow have only played one song by him in all these years on this blog and it is definitely time to correct that oversight.

I came across his Live at the Regal album as a teenager and it just destroyed me. It was a live performance from the Regal Theater in Chicago from 1964 and it is one of the great live recorded performances ever put down on vinyl, regardless of genre. It just reels and rocks and is filled with classic after classic tunes from B.B., Lucille–the only guitar whose name you probably know– and a band that kicks it big time. As with Romare Bearden’s painting, it’s just plain good stuff.

Take a listen to the great Sweet Little Angel and have yourself a good–no, a great– Sunday.


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bb_king_lucille-4Times continually passes on and takes some of our friends along with it as it goes.  Thursday,  that friend was the great BB King.  He was the ambassador and face of the blues for the last half century, a genial presence who crossed over into the mainstream yet maintained the same intensity and integrity as when he was carving out his legend in the 1950’s playing clubs across the country as he toured almost non-stop.

By the time I was in my teens, he had transcended the blues and was part of popular culture.  The Thrill Is Gone was a mainstream hit, winning him a Grammy in 1970, and he maintained a visibility on the television, always accompanied by Lucille, his black Gibson guitar which has become probably the only guitar that most people can recognize by name.   And if they didn’t know her name they most likely knew the sound of her voice. Everybody knew who BB King was.

But my real introduction to BB King came when I was going through the used bin at a local record shop and found a  beat up copy  of  his Live at the Regal Theater from a show in Chicago in late 1964.  It was well worn as though whoever had owned it before had played the hell out of it.  From the second the needle on my turntable snapped into the groove, I understood why  that was so.

Pure electric, a perfect storm of time, place and people made every moment of that record crackle.  One listen and you knew it was about as good as it gets.  I still get shivers when I hear it.

So to honor the passing of our friend, this Sunday’s music is a song that was a favorite of that Regal Theater crowd (and mine as well), How Blue Can You Get?  But the performance I am showing is from a different venue.  It’s from a Thanksgiving show in 1972 from NY’s Sing Sing Prison with BB King, The Voices of East Harlem and Joan Baez.  I think this is a great version of the song and seeing the inmates respond really adds something to it.

So, give a listen to our friend and have yourself a great Sunday.

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Boss Guitar

Wes montgomery- Boss Guitar album coverIt’s a frigid winter morning with  temperatures below zero and a fine gray mist of snow filling the view from my studio windows.  It would be easy to mope around on a morning like this but I am in the mood for something light.  Airy and alive.  I flip around looking for something thta fits the bill and settle on a little Wes Montgomery, the late jazz guitarist who died way too early and was one of the most influential players ever, spurring on guitarists of many genres with his distinct playing.

You can easily see the unusual stance of his right hand as he plays, splayed out and set in one position against the body of the guitar while his ultra-flexible thumb does all the dancing on the strings.  It was said that he had a corn-like callous on his thumb that acted as a pick, the hard parts of providing sharper tones and the softer parts the more mellow sounds.  It’s the style of a self-taught artist, which I appreciate.  That and the fact that he, much like BB King, could not read music. Amazing.

Wes Montgomery died in his home in Indianapolis from a heart attack in 1968.  He was only 45 and at the peak of his career.  Makes you want to take advantage of every moment, not knowing what you will leave undone when your time comes.

Here’s a track called Jingles from Wes Montgomery in 1965.  Enjoy!




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