I had the good fortune of going to B.B. King's final homecoming show last Sunday. The man is 88 years old. He's been playing clubs since the 1940s. He still rips.
B.B.'s homecoming is a festival in Indianola, MS that he's thrown every year since 1980. I didn't know what to expect. What could this old man have left? Turns out, just a thinner frame, a peerless voice that gets a little tired, and two hands that still play with tremendous depth.
On this night B.B. was casual, but you could tell he was putting his heart into every note he played. He just played the blues in front of his band and joked with the audience between songs. He savored his last time in front of a Sunflower County crowd.
Growing up in Mississippi I didn't appreciate our musical heritage. I was a kid who got annoyed by white people only interested in our musical tradition as a way to get people to visit their town.
Now I've come to appreciate how economically B.B. King moves across the fretboard. His lyricism is only matched by Miles Davis. His tone is impeccable. He takes a musical form that seems simple on the surface and manages to make it as sophisticated as a Charlie Parker solo. He only needs a few notes, and based on what I saw Sunday, he keeps getting better with age.