Why is B.B. King and Eric Clapton’s “Riding with the King” One of My Favorite Blues Albums?

(by Velina of “My Rock Mixtapes”)

It’s no secret that I’m just as big of a blues fan as am I a glam rock one. In fact, my journey on the rock&roll appreciation lane started with the blues, naturally, and in particular with the musical love of my life – Mr. Eric Clapton. I can easily divide my musical adventures into two parts – before and after Clapton and before Clapton there was just so little. Now is the time to thank my parents who’ve been playing his songs at home since I was a little kid and lighted that blues candle inside my heart which eventually transformed into a big wild fire! I can talk about Clapton and his blues for ages because you can’t just have it any other way with him. A career that started in the early 60s, dozens of accomplishments, awards, albums, collaborations, pop culture influences and so on. Not just that but he’s still here, making music, concerts and giving his all, despite numerous health issues he’s facing due to his age. Clapton is pure class – a dying breed of musicians who just know how to sustain their genuineness and status by backing it up with quality and constant desire to make history!

I love early Clapton and everything he did with The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, etc. but late Clapton (1980s – ) has to be my favorite time of his career. “August”, “Money and Cigarettes”, “Journeyman”, “Pilgrim”, etc. – they all fall under the “my favorite works by Mr. Slowhand category”. Today, however, I want to specifically talk about one of the most respected collaborations in the recent history of blues music – Eric Clapton and B.B. King; a friendship that resulted in one of the best modern-day blues records – “Riding with the King”; a strong musical bond that gave birth to an album, without which I cannot imagine my life. Many aspects of “Riding with the King” have turned this album into one of the Top 5 albums I always recommend to people who just want to get a taste of the blues. I will briefly mention where my adoration is coming from and will let you decide whether I’m right or wrong (even though we all know I am totally right). Let’s get on that ride now!!!

The Legends

Eric Clapton, B.B. King – do I have to say more? When your name is as heavy as the Earth itself, you don’t need justification or any other form of additional explanation to why exactly your music must be heard and appreciated. Both Clapton and B.B. King are pure synonyms of the blues and have certainly been through a lot to establish themselves as such. I don’t think you need me to tell you the environment under which artists like B.B. King had to grow up and what they had to fight and overcome to secure the future of blues music and eventually rock&roll. It’s because of the sweat and tears of those great African-American bluesmen that the world managed to experience not just musical but cultural revolution and learn how to celebrate people of every color and music of every genre, basically. “The king of Blues” is certainly known for many things, but he will always be remembered for living life on the stage. It’s that immense dedication to the public that drove him to perform till his very last breath and forever be refered to as one of the kings of the blues guitar.

Eric Clapton rose to stardom after his early days in the Yardbirds. He quickly proved that he wasn’t just your regular white English boy, trying to play the blues. He had the talent, the vision, the heart… It’s been an ongoing, never-stopping career full of ups and downs, personal struggles, self-discovery and tons of other life challenges, all of which Clapton faced with a guitar hanging on his neck. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s a legend and why he’s everyone’s favorite guitar hero. “Clapton is God” many say, and you have a 50-year-old career to investigate if you don’t agree.

Clapton met B.B. King in the late ‘60s and ever since, it’s been a dream of him to record with one of his all-time idols. It wasn’t until the late ‘90s when the two of them finally made some serious musical magic together for B.B. King’s duets album, “Deuces Wild”. After the foundations of the friendship were strengthened it was a matter of time before those two make something precious out of it. After all, you rarely have so much potential in one place.
3 years later, “Riding with the King” finally materialized and everyone was more than happy with the results. Clapton put everything into his album – from picking the song to co-producing the album, “Riding with the King” turned into a very important turning point for the career of then 55-year-old Clapton. The best thing is that he perfectly knew who’s he recording with and didn’t even for a second try to outstage him or become the center of it all. You can quickly notice that B.B. King is leading on the majority of songs as Clapton is taking the backseat. That my friend is called respect and is one of my favorite aspects of this album.

The Songs & the Sound

(Vintage meets Modern)

eric clapton bb king riding with the king album cover12 gorgeous manifestations of blues music have been put together for “Riding with the King”. Among them we can find classic B.B. King songs from the 50s and the 60s, as well as other vintage blues covers and interpretations. The title song, which easily could be referred to as the highlight of the album, is written by John Hiatt for his sixth album (1983) and surprise – it’s about the king of Rock&Roll, Elvis Presley! For BB and Clapton’s album, Hiatt had to redo the lyrics a little bit to fit the new production and style and of course – for the King of Blues. The result was phenomenal. The cover is certainly a refreshing twist on the song and definitely the better version (at least in my own humble opinion). Who says blues is boring? “Riding with the King” has to be one of the most empowering, uplifting and day-improving tunes of the genre. I can always count on this song to help me go through the day and kick me with that much needed thrill.

Another extremely refreshing moment is “Marry You”, which is not often mentioned by fans and critics when it comes to this album, yet I strongly support its relevance and immense contribution to turning this project into the perfect modern-day blues record. “Three O’Clock Blues” is one of BB’s specialties and a kind reminder of why this whole collaboration was indeed a great idea put together at a great time. Same goes for “Ten Long Years” which every self-respected blues fan gotta know. The new production and Clapton’s involvement (though supportive, rather than equal) is bringing so much color to those blues staples that at one point I just forgot those songs existed before this album. “I Wanna Be” is a splendid introduction song to a youngster, transitioning from melodic rock to the blues.

“Riding with the King” was released in 2000 and I think the time period was very crucial to the sound and thus the influence of the album. I think they couldn’t have picked a better day to make such statement. The “father/son” collaboration mixed together all the ingredients needed to please the old-school bluesmen and the newer generation of fans who at that time, given the bands which dominated the charts, probably thought they would never listen to blues music. The most attractive part of “Riding with the King” and the reason why it’s one of my favorite blues records of all time is not just the fact that it’s full of atmospheric, well-balanced compositions and not just because it’s a collaborative effort of legends like Eric Clapton and B.B. King. It’s one of my most beloved and respected works because it’s a contemporary blues record, keeping that old spirit alive and the ideal “generation-doesn’t-matter” album. I was 8 years old when the album came out and it’s been with me ever since. I’m glad I had the chance to witness its release and blossoming into what is known by fans today. Thank you B.B. King (RIP) and Clapton for keeping the blues alive.

“Riding with the King”

“Marry You”

“Three O’Clock Blues”

 


References:
Album artwork, retrieved from: https://earofnewt.com/2015/02/01/b-b-king-says-that-eric-clapton-was-like-his-girlfriend-on-riding-with-the-king/
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Remembering PRINCE and His Epic Ballad “Purple Rain”

Prince - Purple Rain

Remembering Prince…

 

2016 truly is the year music died…

Today the world woke up to some horrible news – at the age of 57, one of the most prolific and important music icons Prince, has died. I cannot believe we have lost another legend…

Prince was much more than a talented artist – he was a master of music and a humanist, who without fear supported everything that mattered and meant a lot to him by expressing it through his art. Yes, Prince’s music was not just music – it was a pure art! Prince was a prolific songwriter, gifted multi-instrumentalist and one of the most talented producers and music engineers. Not to mention that he was one of the most dynamic stage personas in the industry. Prince was full of so many great ideas – not only he wrote his own songs, but he wrote so many hit songs for other artists as well! He was also one badass guitar player – his unique use of the guitar as a rhythm instrument is one of the many things that distinguished him. He is also the creator of the so called “Minneapolis Sound” – a very distinctive sound, driven by synthesizers and drum machines on top of rhythmic guitars.

Throughout his career, Prince has sold more than 100 million records and has released 39 studio albums and more than 100 singles! Needless to say, these numbers speak for themselves – he was extraordinary and people loved his music! Prince was a true rock ‘n’ roll pioneer with music that is absolutely timeless. He was also one of the reasons why MTV broke the racial barrier – he was a true symbol and a fighter for the rights of all African-Americans.

Among all of his brilliantly written songs, I have to say his greatest hit remains the 8 minute long epic ballad called “Purple Rain”. The song is the title track from his 1984 album of the same name, which is the soundtrack of his rock musical drama film, again titled “Purple Rain”. The song is considered as one of his most signature works and he even won an Oscar for it! This masterpiece captivated the audience by its unique combination of rock, gospel, pop and orchestral music. It is considered as one of the greatest songs of all time…

I grew up listening to Prince and I truly hold him dear – his influence and musicianship go far beyond any reason. He was much more than a commercially successful artist – he was an inspiration and one of the most important figures that changed the course of music! In memory of Prince, I decided to prepare a little tribute publication and focus a little bit more on his most famous work – “Purple Rain”. I truly admire and love this song and have always been extremely captivated by the beautiful lyrics. I listen to it quite often because – well, because it’s one of a kind song! Let’s remember this fine piece of art and think of him…Good night, sweet prince…

Prince - Purple Rain Cover

 

Lyrics:

“…I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain

Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain

I only want to see you bathing in the purple rain

I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend
Baby I could never steal you from another
It’s such a shame our friendship had to end

Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain

I only want to see you underneath the purple rain

Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out for something new
That means you too
You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain

If you know what I’m singing about up here
C’mon raise your hand

Purple rain Purple rain

I only want to see you, only want to see you
In the purple rain…”


 

GIF PRINCE PURPLE RAIN~ The song is entirely written by Prince, however at first he actually wanted Stevie Nicks to write the lyrics for “Purple Rain”.

~ Originally, the song was 11 minute long, however a verse and a chorus were cut out. Some of the original lyrics that were taken out of the song for being too inappropriate are the following:
“Honey I don’t want your money, no, no.
I don’t even think I want your love.
If I wanted either one I would take your money and,
I want the heavy stuff.”

~ The song was recorded during a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theater at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983.

~ Prince was very worried that the song had a very similar sound to that of Journey’s “Faithfully”. He called Jonathan Cain and asked him to hear it after which Jonathan said that it was “OK” since the songs shared just a few common chords.

~ The movie “Purple Rain” grossed more than $80 million at the box office and became one of the most essential movies of the era.

~ “Purple Rain” soundtrack spent 24 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard charts. The song, however hit only number 2, behind “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!

~ Many people were quite confused and wondering about the true meaning of the song and its lyrics. “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple.. .Purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god” guide you through the purple rain,” he said.

~ However…according to his band mate Lisa Coleman, the song symbolizes “a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor…”

~ Prince gave one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime moments at the 2007 game when he performed “Purple Rain”. The stadium turned dark and purple which created an amazing visual experience. Appropriately, the song was played during a downpour at the stadium!!!

 

~ In order to fully understand the lyrics and the meaning of the song, one has to watch the movie. Many people say that this song is dedicated to his traumatic childhood and his father, who used to physically abuse him when he was a child or that it’s about the relationship his mom and dad had. To other people, however this song goes beyond that and carries a more philosophical and deeper meaning or it is simply about loving someone who doesn’t feel the same way because he/she is already in a loving relationship with someone…. He doesn’t want to ruin this girl’s life but he still wants her close to him, maybe as a friend… To me personally, this song can have many interpretations depending on the person listening to it. I feel like this song is about a very deep and strong desire that will most likely never happen – you are so inlove with someone but due to circumstances you cannot be together…

 

PURPLE RAIN 4


 

Credits:
20 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Purple Rain’, retrieved from http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-purple-rain#AsoPDoVTRAD2E5q1.99
Purple Rain by Prince, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2012
Purple Rain (song), retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Rain_%28song%29
Prince Found Dead at His Recording Studio in Minnesota, retrieved from http://www.metalsucks.net/2016/04/21/prince-found-dead-recording-studio-minnesota/
“Purple Rain” Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/prince/purplerain.html
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners.