Farewell to B.B. King

Throughout the years on American Idol, the judges have often spewed nonsense praise for “artists” who can take a song and make it their own. I say “nonsense” because this almost never actually happens on Idol. Yeah, the kid cast members might mix an arrangement or two, but ultimately the performances are re-heated piles of sludge. Why, even the most famous “making a song your own” moment on Idol wasn’t truly “making a song your own.” David Cook’s cover of Billie Jean wasn’t as unique as most thought. It was simply a cover of a cover of Billie Jean, first done by Chris Cornell.

Anyhow, in case you haven’t heard, the legendary B.B. King died yesterday. King was 89, and his career stands as a magnificent ode to uniqueness. Put different: the man did things with a guitar that’d never been done. He made the instrument speak and laugh and cry. I mean, just beyond awesome.

For me, however, King’s greatest work isn’t a guitar solo or some blues breakdown. Nope, his greatest work appears on a little-known album, Rhythm, Country And Blues, issued in 1994 by MCA Records. The idea was to produce a bunch of duets between country and R&B artists, and it was done with mixed results. Some of the songs are pretty good (Patti LaBelle and Travis Tritt pull off a solid “When Something is Wrong with My Baby). Others—not so much (Little Richard and Tanya Tucker should never sing side by side again).

And then, there is track No. 11.

The tune is “Patches,” a tune originally sung by Clarence Carter in 1970. Carter’s version won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, and with good reason. It’s done well. But, 24 years later, Jones and King took “Patches” and turned it upside its head. I mean, “Patches” by King and George Jones isn’t merely a good tune or a great tune or an amazing tune. Nope, it’s a friggin’ masterpieces, with as much emotion and heart as two artists could muster from a piece of music. Jones, naturally, is terrific. Because he was always terrific. But King … man, King is the heart of the experience. When he starts talking to his dying father … flippin’ hell, find me a better moment. Seriously, find me one.

RIP, B.B.

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