President Barack Obama has penned a touching tribute to B.B. King, the legendary bluesman who died last night at age 89. “The blues has lost its king, and America has lost a legend,” the President wrote on the White House’s Facebook.
“B.B. King was born a sharecropper’s son in Mississippi, came of age in Memphis, Tennessee and became the ambassador who brought his all-American music to his country and the world,” Obama wrote. “No one worked harder than B.B. No one inspired more up-and-coming artists. No one did more to spread the gospel of the blues.
“Three years ago, Michelle and I hosted a blues concert at the White House,” he continued. “I hadn’t expected that I’d be talked into singing a few lines of ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ with B.B. by the end of the night, but that was the kind of effect his music had, and still does. He gets stuck in your head, he gets you moving, he gets you doing the things you probably shouldn’t do – but will be always be glad you did. 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 February 2012, B.B. King was among the blues greats recruited to perform for the president’s PBS special, In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues. “One of the things about being president is some nights you want to take a walk or a drive but you can’t,” Obama said at the time. “But there are other nights where B.B. King and Mick Jagger come to your house and play a concert.”
In addition to King’s many accomplishments, achievements and accolades, he was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995 while President Bill Clinton was in office. “[King] was a brilliant blues guitarist and a kind, good man,” Clinton said in a statement (via The Associated Press) following King’s death. “I will always be grateful that twice I had the chance to play with him, and that he received the Kennedy Center Honor when I was president. While an American legend has gone to his greater reward, the thrill of his gifts to us will never be gone.”