Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King


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“A treasure trove of information…told with real feeling.” —Washington Post Book World

“Charming...honest...transcendent…. It reads like a warm and lengthy conversation with a close friend.” —Billboard

The undisputed king of the blues, B.B. King puts his life into words in a story that spans tragedy, triumph, and everything in between—and he tells it just how he plays it, straight from the heart. A true-to-life tale of overcoming monumental odds to succeed as an artist in an often unfriendly world, Blues All Around Me is also the story of how blues music changed during its migration from the Mississippi Delta to urban areas such as Chicago. Rolling Stone calls B.B.’s memoir a “very American success story [told] with the lyricism and leisurely pace of a born storyteller.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062061034
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/08/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 367,249
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

B. B. King's numerous honors include an honorary doctorate from Yale University, a Presidential Medal of the Arts, and fifteen Grammy Awards. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame, and has more than ninety albums and anthologies to his credit. At age eighty-four, he is still on the road, touring the world.

David Ritz is the author of the acclaimed novels The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn and Blue Notes Under a Green Felt Hat. He is the only four-time winner of the Gleason Book of the Year Award. He's also cowritten the memoirs of many celebrities.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Memory of the Heart

I struggle with words. Never could express myself the way I wanted. My mind fights my mouth, and thoughts get stuck in my throat. Sometimes they stay stuck for seconds or even minutes. Some thoughts stay for years; some have stayed hidden all my life. As a child, I stuttered. What was inside couldn't get out. I'm still not real fluent. I don't know a lot of good words. If I were wrongfully accused of a crime, I'd have a tough time explaining my innocence. I'd stammer and stumble and choke up until the judge would throw me in jail. Words aren't my friends. Music is. Sounds, notes, rhythms. I talk through music. Maybe that's why I became a loner, someone who loves privacy and doesn't reveal himself too easily.

My friendliness might fool you. Come into my dressing room and I'll shake your hand, pose for a picture, make polite small talk. I'll be as nice as I can, hoping you'll be nice to me. I'm genuinely happy to meet you and exchange a little warmth.

I have pleasant acquaintances with thousands of people the world over. But few, if any, really know me. And that includes my own family. It's not that they don't want to; it's because I keep my feelings to myself. If you hurt me, chances are I won't tell you. I'll just move on. Moving on is my method of healing my hurt and, man, I've been moving on all my life.

Now it's time to stop. This book is a place for me to pause and look back at who I was and what I became. As I write, I'm seventy years old, and all the joy and hurts, small and large, that I've stored up inside me ... well, I want to pull 'em out and put 'em on the page. When I'vebeen described on other people's pages, I don't recognize myself. in my mind, no one has painted the real me. Writers have done their best, but writers have missed the nitty-gritty. Maybe because I've hidden myself, maybe because I'm not an easy guy to understand. Either way, I want to open up and leave a true account of who I am.

When it comes to my own life, others may know the cold facts better than me. Scholars have told me to my face that I'm mixed up. I smile but don't argue. Truth is, cold facts don't tell the whole story. Reading this, some may accuse me of remembering wrong. That's okay, because I'm not writing a coldblooded history. I'm writing a memory of my heart. That's the truth I'm after-following my feelings, no matter where they lead. I want to try to understand myself, hoping that you-my family, my friends, my fans-will understand me as well.

This is a blues story. The blues are a simple music, and I'm a simple man. But the blues aren't a science; the blues can't be broken down like mathematics. The blues are a mystery, and mysteries are never as simple as they look.

Table of Contents

1 Memory of the Heart 1

2 Her Words are Music 3

3 Heavenly Music 15

4 Dawn 29

5 "You All Right, Jack?" 45

6 King Cotton 57

7 Dream Machine 71

8 War and Peace 81

9 A City is Like a Woman 97

10 Why I Love Arthur Godfrey 109

11 Faith is Patience 121

12 Chili, Crackers, and a Big Ol' Belly Washer 133

13 Doing the "Do" 143

14 Who Can Explain Love? 155

15 Lousy Leader 167

16 Where Was I When Rhythm and Blues Became Rock 'n' Roll? 181

17 "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest" 193

18 Forget Regrets 205

19 "Did You Read What John Lennon Said?" 215

20 How Do You Lose a Bus? How Do You Lose a Wife? 227

21 Vision 235

22 Someone Asked Me About Oral Sex 245

23 There's Something About Being in Prison 257

24 Luck is a Lady 265

25 Circumcision is No Laughing Matter 275

26 Indianola Sunset 283

Being with B David Ritz 299

Selected Discography 315

Awards 319

Index 327

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