Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1089

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Bobby 'Blue' Bland R.I.P.

Bobby
Bobby Bobby Bobby Bobby

One of the greatest ever blues singer has died. Bobby âBlueâ Bland was 83 and passed away in Memphis on Sunday (23rd June), after a long illness. His daughter had been appealing to fans on Facebook to pray for her Daddy for some time.

His son Rodd confirmed Bobbyâs death and said it was due to complications from an ongoing illness.

Bobby âBlueâ Bland recorded several albums with his contemporary and friend BB King that gave him a wider audience, but he never quite achieved the fame and fortune that his peers suck as BB, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke gained. In 2008, Mick Hucknall paid homage to one of his heroes, when he released âTribute To Bobby,â covering Bobby âBlueâ Blandâs best known songs. Around the same time, a documentary was released on DVD where Bobby spoke about his life and career, filmed in Memphis in Nopvember 2007, and many stars gave the man credit for his talents. His faultless soulful vocals were peppered with cries from the heart and âblues shouterâ stylings which gave him a unique sound, and he had much success on the US R&B charts and club circuit for many decades. He influenced many, including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and modern day artists such as Jay-Z; who sampled Bobbyâs 1974 hit âAinât No Love In The Heart Of The City,â on âBlueprint,â the Jay-Z album released in 2001. Bobby was sometimes known as "The Lion of The Blues."

Bobby âBlueâ Bland blended gospel, blues, soul and jazz with pop and even country music to try to find his own sound. He began recording in the early 1950âs, but it was not until the middle of that decade that he cut what are now regarded as important blues classics such as âFarther Up the Road.â Then in â58 he struck gold with âLittle Boy Blue,â inspired by Rev. C. L. Franklinâpreaching style, a certain Arethaâs father, and discovered his unique vocal technique. He combined this vocal âsquallâ with the smoother crooning styles of the singers he admired such as Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett, and incorporated all of this with a fierce big band sound.

Bobby had more than 30 Top 20 R&B singles for Duke Records for a decade from 1958. A smash hit âI Pity the Foolâ hit the top spot in the chart as did âThatâs the Way Love Is.â He had crossover hits on the pop charts too at that time, with âTurn On Your Love Light,â âCall On Me,â âThatâs the Way Love Isâ and âAinât Nothing You Can Do.â Van Morrison cut âAinât Nothing You Can Doâ on his 1974 live album, âItâs Too Late to Stop Now.â He also included a previously unreleased version of a March 2000 duet of Morrison and Bland singing "Tupelo Honey," on his 2007 compilation album, "The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3."

Bobby had 63 singles on the charts from 1957 to 1985. Blues and soul fans lapped up his albums on the Malaco label after he signed to them in 1985. He won a âLifetime Achievementâ Grammy in 1997 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame five years before that.

Born Robert Calvin Brooks in 1930, in Tennessee, close to Memphis and NOT in Rosemark, as many writers and on-line information sources state, he took his Step-fatherâs surname from six years old. Bobby left school to work on the cotton fields. He moved to Memphis in 1947 to work in a garage. He sang in a gospel group and in 1949 joined the Beale Streeters, who over the years had boasted such people as BB King and Roscoe Gordon among their ranks. He toured with Johnny Ace and eventually cut records for Chess, Modern and Duke Records. In 1952 he joined the Army. On his return, he drove R&B star Junior Parker and acted as his valet and opened shows for him. He had also driven for BB King years before.

He was a in demand for concerts throghout the 1960a, and toured non-stop, having very few nights off each year. He was still performing in the US in recent years.

In 2009 he told a radio interviewer how he wanted to be remembered: ââ¦â¦.as just a good old country boy that did his best to give us something to listen to and help them through a lot of sad moments, happy moments, whatever.â
Words SIMON REDLEY

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