We Ranked 10 of B.B. Kings Best Songs

It’s difficult to reduce B.B. King’s career down to a handful of his greatest songs—the bluesman’s compilation of songs are some of the longest-running and most influential in music history. In the seven years since his death more have come to appreciate his contributions to music.

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King’s guitar licks—combined with his unique mix of punchy phrases and ringing vibrato, the response to King’s hollering tenor call—would set the template for blues and rock guitarists to follow, and earned him the nickname “The King of the Blues.”

Even his guitar, “Lucille”  is remembered by Rolling Stone as one of the most iconic instruments in rock history. A new version was released two months ago, if you want your own, too.

1. Playing the Cost to Be the Boss

On this 1968 track, King’s guitar work (famously influenced by legendary guitarist T-Bone Walker) is impeccable (of course), but the song also showcases his often overlooked vocal talent.

 2. Rock Me Baby

King’s first charting single demonstrates his lineage in music history: It’s a blues standard revamped by King, and later would be covered by the likes of Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix.

3. Three O’Clock Blues

King topped R&B Billboard Charts for weeks with this Lowell Fulson cover. Despite the crude recording—King cut it in a Memphis YMCA—King’s soul and skill shine through, and “Three O’Clock Blues” remains his first and biggest hit.

4. Riding With The King

Not many musicians can brag about releasing hits at the age of 74, but in 2000 King did just that. Riding With the King was a collaboration with Eric Clapton that won the two blues icons a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album.

5. Caldonia

A star-studded track featuring Peter Green, Steve Windwood, and Ringo Starr, 1971’s “Caldonia” is memorable for many aspects. Perhaps most attention-grabbing is the biting—yet light-hearted—refrain: “Caldonia!/ What makes your big head so hard?”

6. Why I Sing The Blues

The groove of this song softens the lyrics sting, but King’s meaning is unmistakable: this 1969 song catalogs the suffering of black history. “That’s why I sing the blues,” King hollers— a powerful statement from the son of two sharecroppers. (Bad luck, “cryin’ and “the blues” as you may have noticed, are a common theme across his entire discography, from songs like “How Blue Can You Get” to “Nobody Loves Me” to “You Upset Me Baby”.

7. To Know You is To Love You

Stevie Wonder recorded the original version of this song, then played keys on King’s cover, where the two legends signature styles blend flawlessly.

8. Chains and Things

Even when King sings the blues, his vocal and guitar usually burst with energy. But “Chains” is a change-up—a melancholic tune with Carole King’s electric keyboard adding a pop-rock flair to King’s traditional blues style.

9. Every Day I Have the Blues

Few songs demonstrate the consistent quality of King’s lengthy career like “Every Day”—a song appearing on his first album in 1956, then reprised to win a 2004 Grammy almost half a century later.

10. The Thrill is Gone

King does what he does best in his 1969 version of a Roy Hawkins tune: electrifying an old blues tune into new life. The king song among King’s songs, “The Thrill is Gone” is guitar playing at its peak. The song, from the Indianola Mississippi Seeds, album, would win a Grammy in 1970, and earn a spot on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time List.

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