Famed Bluesman B.B. King tours on film for limited one day showings in a featured documentary titled, ‘The Life Of Riley’, a film title only those as old as King would get. However, someone as legendary and stubbornly surviving on spilling the blues, you can’t fault the master blues-slinger for the old school tongue-in-cheek. Considering ‘Riley’ is ‘blues boy’ King’s real first name you can see the humor. Having gotten this far in life as a blues singer/guitarist also means more than hitting the right notes, since B.B. doesn’t play cords on his Lucille.
These and other fun facts are revealed about B.B. King by narrator Morgan Freeman whose old school voice tone fits perfectly with the on-air autobiographical comments made by the musician. A seamless portrait is shown of King that isn’t as flamboyant as James Brown nor as emotional as Ray Charles but it is just as entertaining. A large part of this comes from the editing of various other musicians/industry execs who offer their reminisces concerning King.
Rather than a tortured and drugged soul like Billie Holiday, B.B. King stayed close enough to the music to avoid controversy. His strong Christian roots allowed him to showcase his talent and his constant touring, sometimes as much as 365 days in year, built up a following but doomed a solid marital foundation at first.
Tracked also are the songs that made King famous including the song I played for my first wife as I packed my things to go back to my mother’s house, ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. To this day whenever I chance to hear the song, I have to turn away momentary and wipe a tear away before someone can notice.
Also traced are King’s breakout from the Chitlin* Circuit and King’s reluctance at first, to move beyond his frame of cultural reference but then deciding to and being successful. With all the talk about who is racist, there is no talk about the self-perceived lower expectations that emanate from cultural racism. This film shows a life progress that one could say does mimic the title somewhat when compared to the music genre’s peers.
The life path is also covered from a location standpoint which illustrates the humble beginnings of B.B. to the recognition of seeing talent come color. As King looks back and speaks of fellow bluesmen, a word about Stevie Ray Vaughan would have been nice. Had the situation been reversed, I’m sure Stevie would have done more than drop a name but that’s just me knowing the only slight I found in a LLWAP screening of the film. Here’s what the official B.B. King site has to say.
“We’re incredibly excited for our fans to see this film in theatres throughout the US, beginning May 21st for a limited time only. The film features never-before-seen interviews with Bono, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and many more!
Get advance movie tickets before they sell out at www.bbking.com/film for cities across the nation this May.
(* – slang for pig intestines cooked as a soul food delicacy.)