Thursday, January 28, 2016

The LIfe of Riley - BB King documentary

I just found this documentary on Riley "Blues Boy" (B.B.) King on Netflix - a star-studded tribute to the King of the blues, a man who has influenced damn near everyone who ever picked up a guitar.

His story is told through narration (Morgan Freeman), interviews with the man himself, along with his lifetime friends and family. He grew up on a plantation picking cotton and driving tractors and learned guitar from friends and family who played. His trademark vibrato is due to the fact that he was never able to learn how to play slide guitar, so this was his way of imitating it!

After some false starts, he ran off to Memphis and started to make a living off of his music. Things really took off when he took a chance with a new producer and ended up with "The Thrill Is Gone" - one of the first, if not the first, blues song to incorporate string. He then got to tour with the Rolling Stones in 1969 - one of their biggest - and playing with U2 in the 80's, enlarging his audience even more. He eventually literally played for kings and presidents - Obama, Bush, Clinton and more - and became a true living legend.

Throughout this movie innumerable stars pay tribute - too many to name here - and there is a lot of great archival footage of BB, although some early stories are told with actors and stock photos - unsurprising as his family was quite poor.

The movie isn't quite as compelling as his incredible life deserves, but is still a fine telling of his story.