Under the heading, “The Thrill Is Gone,” King’s official website announced his death, saying he “passed peacefully in his sleep.”
King was born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925, in Itta Bena, Miss. From his beginnings playing on the street for dimes to his later years, in which he continued touring, he released more than 50 albums.
President Barack Obama said in a statement that King “gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving…B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever. And there’s going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight.”
In an obituary, Tim Weiner of The New York Times said King played with “a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love.”
King told interviewer Joe Smith in 1986, “I’m not inventing anything that’s gonna stop cancer or muscular dystrophy or anything, but I like to feel that my time and talent is always there for the people that need it.”
Watch this PBS Digital Studios video for a captivating tribute to King, featuring a portion of the Smith interview and an explanation of why he named his guitar Lucille, among other gems.