For nearly 100 years this man moved through our world building and learning, loving, sharing, inspiring, and in my case...saving.
Today BB King would have been 93. He left this world three years ago, just shy of his 90th birthday.
For the better part of twenty years now I've done battle with mental illness. (Bipolar depression and anxiety.) I do get manic at times but it's always short lived. Sadly.
In the years before I sought treatment I suffered tremendously and at one of the lowest points in my life, when I was ready to end mine, a familiar voice came on the radio. Well, it was Lucille that caught my ear first.
At that moment the Blues reached out and took my hand. BB King saved my life that night. And he did more than a few times over the years. And I never got to thank him for that. It's one of those things that I wish I could have expressed to the man. And a lesson I learned as well. That when those moments happen, when an artist has helped you hold the shattered shards of soul together for another day, you thank them. With words, support, patronage, and with honesty.
I've a long list of artists I truly adore.
Inside that list are some who have walked that same ground in my battlefield that BB walked that night. Some that were there in my darkest moments without their ever knowing at the time that they were saving a life. They've taken my hand and held me in the music till I could breathe again.
The vanguard who have helped me wage this life long war and who have helped me to stay on my feet in this world are fairly easy to spot. Watch for the names that show up when I'm out attending a live event where their names appear repeatedly.
I'm a pretty open book in many ways. But like all of us we have our private spaces. Some are safe and serene, some are our darkest wastelands of mental anguish. I tend to share the safe and serene freely. And, these days, only acknowledge that the other is there publicly.
Some may know, many probably don’t, that I’ve been required to fight much harder in the last year, more than I have in almost two decades, to simply survive. Part of that battle has been to immerse myself more fully into the music that carries me through. To support and promote live music and the artists as best I can. I’m not always able to afford to buy an album or a shirt or any of the things that I wish I could. But I try very hard to make any contribution I can in some form.
With the love and support of long time friends, and the honest and genuine friendships I’ve made in the last year through the music community (both artists and fans alike) I’ve continued to fight.
This community was GIVEN to me by BB King when he and his music opened my eyes and heart to a whole new world that I hadn’t known was truly there nor the depth and soul of it.
The last several weeks have truly tested my ability to fight, to say I’m bloodied and on my knees would be an understatement.
It’s kind of odd though how moments can repeat in life. Last night BB saved me again.
One of the things that I most admire in Blues Artists, is that 98 times out of 100 they genuinely show their respect and love for the history, the present, the future, the leaders, the pioneers, the fans, and their fellow artists freely and openly.
I’ve seen artists of varying styles, techniques, and backgrounds who are playing the same genre but who sound nothing alike, yet completely familiar and connected. The Blues are a united front that stand together with space for everyones particular tastes and flavors because we seem to innately understand that we each have our own personal struggles that while similar in text, are often very different in personal experience but that we can all support one another.
I’ve met with and gotten to know many who also suffer from forms of mental illness, or who have people in their life who do combat with those demons daily, all of whom have found a home and solace in the music.
When i had the chance to talk with and interview Tommy Castro earlier this year, he hit the nail on the head. “People don’t listen to or come out to the Blues to feel bad, they come out to feel better.”
While I can’t say I’m on my feet, I can say that I’m still trying.
It’s with the most bittersweet memory and genuine love that I say “Happy Birthday BB King, you may not be here on earth in body but you’re hear in the fabric of life forever more. And the proof of that is my being here still drawing breath. Thank you, Sir. I hope you find us good stewards of the music you so heavily influenced and continue to inspire.”
This is a short list and by no means a complete list or a list in any order, but from this past year I must simply try to say thank you to those women and men of the Blues who have helped me through this year. Musician and community member alike.
Russell and Annette C.
And many many many more. I know there are names I’m forgetting at the moment (those of you who know me will know that I’m atrocious with names and have next to no memory) but that have no less of a place in this pantheon.
And this list doesn’t include the many many people whom I know and love and who have fought by me, and often for me, that are in my life but outside of the Blues Community.
A myriad of styles and personalities. With just as many varied backgrounds. All of whom who have sustained me even without their knowing. All of whom contribute so much to this world and this music.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Anthony Gomes live for the first time, and thus was the first time I’d heard this new song. There I was, having been witness to a loud and rocking show for roughly 2 hours and then this song happened and I was stock still and in tears.
Below is a new video just released, and the single is released for free as well, by Anthony Gomes in his inimitable style paying tribute to the King of the Blues.