B.B. King's Legacy, to One Guy
Just a few brief words about B.B. King, who passed away recently at age 89. I'm an amateur/hobbyist when it comes to the guitar. I tinkered with guitar in late high school, and then played a great deal more while in college in Memphis, TN. B.B. King is a legend to many, for good reason, but I want to speak more to the special place in my guitar education.
B.B. King could play all the notes, but the way that he played a single note is what really defines his brilliance. B.B. King's tremolo (in either voice or guitar) exhibited such incredible range of emotion that it was a wonder to behold. When you think of martial artists who spend years perfecting a single turn of the wrist in order to get the most force and precision with the least energy, that's how I think of B.B. King's tremolo. I could practice that sound 100,000 times and still not be halfway to mastery. It takes a kind of craftsmanship, dedication to mastery, and perhaps, the right kind of ear to pull it off. I'll always be in wonder.
I usually tell people that B.B. King and Eric Clapton, each, are my two favorite guitarists and vocalists. They like to trade positions for me--one day, I'll like B.B.'s voice and Clapton's guitar. The next day, the reverse. Amazing that so much talent could be expressed in two different domains like that.
So, here's a lesson I still need to learn. It wasn't intense speed, technical proficiency, or fancy effects that made B.B. King stand out. It was relentless joy in his craft, and the practiced, disciplined emotion in each note. This ought to be applied beyond the realm of guitar, too.
Source: B. B. King, Defining Bluesman for Generations, Dies at 89 - NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/16/arts/music/b-b-king-blues-singer-dies-at-89.html