BB King: Ten things the King of Blues said about faith


Blues legend BB King has died aged 89, his lawyer has confirmed.

Known as the 'King of the Blues', the former farmhand passed away in his sleep in Las Vegas after suffering from ill health in recent months.

Born on a plantation to sharecropper parents, King outlived all his fellow post-World War Two blues greats – Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker – to see the rough music born in the cotton fields of the segregated South reach a new audience. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time ranked King at number three, behind only Hendrix and Duane Allman.

Described as a deeply spiritual man, King was a practising Christian and was first inspired to pick up the guitar as a young boy by the pastor at his home church, Rev Archie Fair. Fair taught King his first few chords, and King began singing gospel music at Elkhorn Baptist Church. Here are ten things he said about faith in various interviews over the years, and in his autobiography.

On his love of music: "I liked blues from the time my mother used to take me to church. I started to listen to gospel music, so I liked that."

On spirituality: "I can't think of anyone I've mistreated. I've always thought that I am my brother's keeper. And I believe there's a 'great spirit' that takes care of all of us."

On church: "Church was a wonderful meeting place. It seemed safe and calm. People felt friendly and blessed; in church you could extend your hand and enjoy a fellowship of the spirit."

On meeting the pope: "When I was going to church with my mother, the pastor made me feel a different way than anybody else. He made me feel that I could get a message to God. I didn't have that feeling again until five or six years ago. I was at the Vatican and had a chance to meet Pope John Paul. I felt that I could talk to God and tell him something, or that the Pope would give him my message."

On the death of his mother: "The church was a comfort – being surrounded by the music and the warmth of the congregation – but the church couldn't fill the void. Nothing could."

On gospel music: "My mother had filled my heart with a love for a compassionate God. Gospel songs sang of that love. And, God knows, I loved singing gospel."

On his talent: "I believe all musical talent comes from God as a way to express beauty and human emotion."

On God as creator: "I believe God created everything. I'm awed by his handiwork, the forests and oceans and sky that surrounds us. I believe God made us. But our nature isn't always godlike."

On the mystery of God: "But God, like life or death, itself, is a miracle and a mystery that I'll never fully explain or understand. I'm content to accept things the way they are."

On life after death: "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die to get there!"

Additional reporting by Reuters