ABOVE PHOTO: B.B. King
By Tambay A. Obenson
For those of you who want to know more about blues legend B.B. King, who died last week at age 89, there are a few documentaries available that can tell you more about this remarkable man.
First up is the 2012 feature-length documentary “B.B. King: The Life of Riley” (he was born Riley B. King).
Jon Brewer, the film’s director, worked closely with King and told Guitarist magazine: “It was an absolute privilege to be asked to make this film – it’s B.B. King’s life… One aspect tops all others. There’s this little boy who loved going to school, didn’t so much love going to church, but so respected his mother and did what his mother told him. And suddenly she was fading; he saw his mother die, that then led to how he relied upon his grandmother and worked the land, who was also fading in years, so they could eat. And then she died – as a 9 or 10-year old; his life had been crushed. He managed to become a sharecropper, which is somebody who earns $2.50 a month to pay for his rent and his food. I have seen the ledgers that still exist where he cleared his debt and his grandmother’s debt, before his father came to collect him. That man survived and became The King of the Blues. To do what he has done is remarkable.”
The film is available on DVD and digital download (via iTunes) to rent or buy, so you have options.
On the scripted front, in 2011, Wendell Pierce was attached to play King in B.B. King and I, which was said to be based on the real-life events that led to King receiving his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But due to some legal fisticuffs (apparently King didn’t approve of the project), the film never got made. Pierce did address the disagreement saying that he “would never work on a project depicting his life without Mr. King’s approval,” adding, “He is an American icon that deserves my respect & admiration. I look forward to working closely with one of my heroes, BB King, but will never go forward without the King of the Blues leading the way.”
But before both of the above, first broadcast on the BBC in 1972, the below documentary featuring an obviously much younger B.B. King was filmed at a recording session at Command Studios, Piccadilly, London, during the sessions that led to the ‘B.B. King in London’ album. In the 30-minute piece, the blues legend talks about himself and the guitarists who inspired him, including Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker. It was part a collection of BBC programs featuring influential blues musicians, including B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson.
Titled “Sounding Out – B. B. King” watch the 1972 broadcast on YouTube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqUhdBAJfsk.