B.B. King died at his Las Vegas home on Thursday night at the age of 89, his lawyer told The Associated Press. King’s daughter, Patty King, also confirmed King’s death CNN. The legendary blues guitarist was placed in hospice care on May 1, and had battled health problems over the past seven months. (In October of last year, King canceled shows because of exhaustion and dehydration; in April, he was hospitalized for dehydration associated with diabetes.)
Born Riley B. King (as the New York Times noted, King’s middle initial was not associated with a name), King was one of the most acclaimed blues musicians of all-time. He won 15 competitive Grammy Awards (his last coming in 2009) as well as a lifetime achievement award, in 1987, from The Recording Academy. King was a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Blues Hall of Fame. In 1995, he was Kennedy Center honoree; in 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush. King played for Barack Obama at the White House in 2012.
King’s biggest hit was “The Thrill Is Gone” (the song won King his first Grammy in 1971), but he was known for a surfeit of other blues classics, including “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “Three O’Clock Blues” and “You Upset Me Baby.”
With his trusty Gibson guitar (which he named Lucille), King was a relentless touring machine – playing constant dates well into his 80s. He was twice married (his last marriage ended in 1966), and had 15 children.
King was beloved by musicians – he famously performed with U2 on the group’s 1988 album Rattle and Hum – many of whom expressed their sympathy and condolences following his death.
“I want to thank him for all the inspiration and encouragement he gave me as a player over the years. And for the friendship we enjoyed,” Eric Clapton said on Facebook. “There’s not a lot left to say, because this music is almost a thing of the past now. There are not many left who play it in the pure way that B.B. did. He was a beacon for all of us who loved this kind of music, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”