It's impossible to imagine the current musical landscape without the contributions of B.B. King, who died last night in his sleep in Las Vegas. Born in Mississippi in 1925, King started recording in 1949 and landed his first of many hits, "3 O Clock Blues," in 1952. When rock and roll flowered in the '60s, a number of bands—especially British invasion groups like the Rolling Stones and Cream—claimed King as a formative influence, and he was embraced by the hippie counterculture. King opened for the Stones on tour in 1969, near the peak of their first wave of American success, and scored crossover hits in the early '70s with songs like "The Thrill Is Gone" and "I Like To Live The Love."
In the mid to late 70s, R&B and rock shifted away from their bluesy origins. But King sustained an unrelenting touring and recording schedule, releasing an album every few years up through 2008, and collaborating with the likes of U2, Eric Clapton, and a young D'Angelo. King was the recipient of 15 Grammy's and a lifetime achievement award. He is survived by 11 living children.
Lead Image: Win McNamee / Getty Images