December 15, 2012

A LONG WAY FROM THE DELTA:

BB King: The Life Of Riley, DVD review (Martin Chilton, 11 Dec 2012, The Telegraph)


The Life Of Riley, an exceptionally good documentary about B.B. King - born Riley B King on 25th September 1925 - was first shown in cinemas and now has a DVD release.

Although the documentary (produced and directed by Jon Brewer) showcases his music - as does an excellent soundtrack to accompany the film - it also does full justice to a remarkable life.

King certainly had a right to the blues. He had a difficult, lonely upbringing after his mother Nora Ella Farr's early death. King was forced into arduous farm work and cotton-picking from the age of seven. Even small children toiled 'from can to can't' . . . "from when you can see to when you can't," King explained. There is lovely footage of him returning to drive a tractor after he has become a star.

Of course, growing up in pre-war Mississippi meant being exposed to a world where racism was a deadly, daily threat. King says that seeing a Ku Klux Klan mob hang a young black boy "was something I never forgot".

The film pieces together his path to success, from the Memphis musicians who were willing to help him learn; to his time as a disc jockey at WDIA, America's first all black radio station. His nickname there - Blues Boy - was soon shortened to B.B. The tributes are fulsome and varied but what stays in the memory are two touching scenes. The first is when the Governor of Mississippi declares a B.B. King Day (in the state in which he saw a lynching, don't forget) and King is moved to deep tears. There is also a wonderful clip from a concert King gave at the White House with Mick Jagger, in which Barack Obama joins them on stage.
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Posted by at December 15, 2012 6:54 PM
  
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