“I’ll keep playing until I feel like I can’t” – 60 Inspiring Quotes from the Late Great blues Legend B.B. King



The world of music has lost a legend with the passing away of blues singer, songwriter and guitarist B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015). He was nicknamed ‘The King of the Blues’ and one of the ‘Three Kings of the Blues Guitar’ (along with Albert King and Freddie King).

Though I was lucky to hear Albert King in concert (and other blues greats like Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Jimmy Smith, Koko Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughan), I missed the legendary B.B. King. When I was training to be a radio jockey at WMUA FM 91.1 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the blues featured prominently in my early mixes, especially the soul-searching vocals of B.B. King and the hypnotic riffs on his guitar, Lucille.

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Though he witnessed humiliations and discrimination during the racial segregation days in the US, B.B. King continued to tour and play across the US and around the world, inspiring people of all races and nationalities with his devotion and brilliance in music. Here are 60 quotes which capture some of the spirit and experience of B.B. King, whose music has influenced blues, jazz and rock musicians for over five decades and will continue to do so decades to come.

  • A lot of times I say to myself ‘I wish I could be worthy of all the compliments that people give me sometime.’
  • A rose is a rose. It’s pretty. But that doesn’t mean you want to snap it off and put it on your lapel.
  • America might be a little eager too go to war. We don’t consider the cost of what this is going to do to us in the long run.
  • Blues don’t necessarily have to be sung by a person that came from Mississippi as I did, because there are people having problems all over the world.
  • Blues seemed to be right at the bottom of the totem pole, and because of this I always felt that I wanted to bring the kind of respectability to the music.
  • Blues was started by the slaves and I think everybody thinks that it all should be sad … even some of the slaves had fun with it.
  • Don’t matter if you’re gay or straight, Black or White, you still have the same problem.
  • Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die to get there!
  • Everything I record, I just try to sound like me and come up with songs that suit what I do, and then just go for it.
  • Guys who would ask me to play a blues song would always tip and maybe give me a beer as well!
  • I believe all people are good. Some just do bad things.
  • I call myself a blues singer, but you ain’t never heard me call myself a blues guitar man.
  • I don’t think it’s meant for man to know everything at once.
  • I don’t care for the music when they’re talking bad about women because I think women are God’s greatest gift to the planet – I just like music.
  • I don’t like anybody to be angry with me. I’d rather have friends.
  • I don’t think anybody steals anything; all of us borrow.
  • I don’t think it’s meant for man to know everything at once.
  • I don’t try to just be a blues singer – I try to be an entertainer. That has kept me going.
  • I like to feel in most cases like I’m a big guy with long rubber arms that I can reach around my audience and swing and sway with them — move them with me.
  • I like to feel that my time and talent is always there for the people that need it.
  • I love women most of all.
  • I never use that word, retire.
  • I started to like blues, I guess, when I was about six or seven years old. There was something about it, because nobody else played that kind of music.
  • I still think I’ve got a head on my shoulders, and it pleases me.
  • I think I’ve done the best I could have done. But I keep wanting to play better, go further.
  • I think maybe I’ve earned the right to sit down now.
  • I think of guitar players in terms of doctors: you have the doctor for your heart, the cardiologist, then one that works on your feet, your leg. But I believe George Benson is the one that plays all over. To me, he would be the M.D. of them all.
  • I tried to connect my singing voice to my guitar an’ my guitar to my singing voice. Like the two was talking to one another.
  • I was born and raised in a segregated society, but when I left there, I had nobody I disliked other than the people that’d mistreated me, and that only lasted for as long as they were mistreating me.
  • I’d rather be B.B. King. I try to do what I do better, not get away from it.
  • If T-Bone Walker had been a woman, I would have asked him to marry me. I’d never heard anything like that before: single-string blues played on an electric guitar.
  • If there was no ladies, I wouldn’t wanna be on the planet. Ladies, friends, and music – without those three, I wouldn’t wanna be here.
  • If you can’t get your songs to people one way, you have to find another.
  • I’ll keep playing until I feel like I can’t.
  • I’m no good with chords. I’m horrible with chords.
  • I’m still searching even today for a sound, like the guy that’s searching for a home. I haven’t been able to find that completely.
  • It can never be perfect, it can never be exactly what it should be, so you got to keep going further, getting better.
  • I’ve been married twice. Most women would rather not be married to a traveling blues singer.
  • I’ve put up with more humiliation than I care to remember.
  • I’ve said that playing the blues is like having to be black twice.
  • Jazz is the big brother of the blues.
  • Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’, too.
  • Some people say that blues singers are always cryin’ in their beer. But you know what? I don’t drink.
  • That to me is heaven, being out in nature.
  • That’s one of the things about being an entertainer. What we do — it’s just sharing the thoughts that many people have.
  • The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.
  • The blues was bleeding the same blood as me.
  • The blues was like that problem child that you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn’t know how other people would take it.
  • The crowds treat me like my last name. When I go onstage people usually stand up, I never ask them to, but they do. They stand up and they don’t know how much I appreciate it.
  • There are so many sounds I still want to make, so many things I haven’t yet done.
  • There’s a sadness to all kinds of music if you want to hear it. There’s also happiness to it if you want to hear it.
  • Touring a segregated America – forever being stopped and harassed by White cops hurt you most ‘cos you don’t realise the damage. You hold it in. You feel empty, like someone reached in and pulled out your guts. You feel hurt and dirty, less than a person.
  • Water from the White fountain didn’t taste any better than from the Black fountain.
  • We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about, but try to be yourself while you’re doing it.
  • When I do eventually drop, I pray to God that it’ll happen in one of three ways. Firstly, on stage or leaving the stage, then secondly in my sleep. And the third way? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself!
  • When I go onstage each night, I try my best to outguess my audience.
  • When people treat you mean, you dislike them for that, but not because of their person, who they are.
  • When you don’t have much money, you worry that they’ll just put you in the ground someplace and your loved ones won’t know where you are.
  • You got to pay attention to the language, hear what it’s really saying.
  • You never miss what you’ve never had. I never had any other life. I didn’t know any other life.

by: Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz; Bangalore
Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com




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