(Reuters) - Guitarist Eric Clapton remembered the B.B. King album that inspired him as a young musician and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton recalled the thrill of performing with the “King of Blues.”
Musicians, politicians and blues lovers around the world on Friday expressed sorrow over the death of the blues legend on Thursday night at the age of 89, and their gratitude for the legacy he left.
Radio and television newscasts played clips from his most famous songs, which took blues from his native Mississippi into the mainstream.
Clapton, one of the music world’s most influential guitarists, thanked King for inspiration, encouragement and friendship over the years.
“This music is almost a thing of the past now and there are not many left to play it in a pure way like B.B. did,” the Englishman said in a video on his Facebook page. “He was a beacon for all of us who love this kind of music and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”
Clapton encouraged people to find the 1965 album called “B.B. King Live At The Regal,” saying it was “where it really started for me as a young player.”
Obama, who calls the blues mecca of Chicago his home, remembered how he sang “Sweet Home Chicago” with King at a White House blues concert three years ago.
“B.B. may be gone, but that thrill will be with us forever,” Obama said in a statement. “And there’s going to be one killer blues session in heaven tonight.”
Clinton said he would always be grateful that he had a chance to play twice with King and that he received the Kennedy Center Honor while he was president.
“While an American legend has gone to his greater reward, the thrill of his gifts to us will never be gone,” Clinton said in statement along with his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said King’s velvety voice and his guitar, always named Lucille, brought comfort to people.
“Anyone could sing a song about falling in love, but only Mr. King could sing a song about heartbreak,” Emanuel said on Facebook.
“Today, everyone’s hearts are heavier with the passing of the greatest bluesman in history. May he and Lucille continue to play on in eternity.”
King played several times at the annual Chicago Blues Festival, the last time in 2008, and festival spokeswoman Mary May said to expect a tribute for him.
“We’ll be doing something – we just haven’t made definite plans yet,” May said. “I know that a lot of the artists playing at the festival will do something, too. He was such a big part of our festival, and blues in general.”
Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Will Dunham