B.B. King, the legendary blues artist known for songs like “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Sweet Sixteen,” has died, his lawyer said. He was 89 years old.
Attorney Brent Bryson told The Associated Press that King died peacefully in his sleep at 9:40 p.m. Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He had long suffered from Type II diabetes.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, King was born on Sept. 16, 1925, in Mississippi. He was ranked sixth on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
“We all have idols,” King said. “Play like anyone you care about, but try to be yourself while you’re doing so.”
The influential musician was awarded 15 Grammys and given a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. In 1998, “The Thrill Is Gone” received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which is given to recordings of “qualitative or historical significance.”
Last October, King was forced to cancel eight gigs after falling ill from dehydration and exhaustion at a Chicago show.
Born in Mississippi as Riley B. King, the singer has released over 50 albums since the 1940s.
The 2012 documentary “B.B. King: The Life of Riley,” by director Jon Brewer, featured music luminaries including Aaron Neville, Bill Wyman, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, George Benson, Joe Walsh, John Mayer, Paul Rodgers, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood and Slash, among others. The film traces King’s ascent from the cotton fields as an orphan to becoming a national treasure.
His official site explains that the artist got his stage name when his steady gig on Memphis radio station WDIA became so popular that King needed a catchy radio name: “What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King and eventually B.B. King.”
Watch a live performance of King performing “The Thrill Is Gone” below or here.
Tributes to King quickly appeared on social media with musicians like Snoop Dogg, Ringo Starr, Chuck D. and Liz Phair paying homage:
God bless BB King peace and love to his family Ringo and Barbarax — Ringo Starr (@ringostarrmusic) May 15, 2015
R.I.P. Mr BB King Grizz should also acknowledge this tomorrow at game. The man got his START right where the FEDEX Forum stands #MEMPHIS
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) May 15, 2015