Bobby "Blue" Bland, the blues and soul singer whose most memorable
songs included Further On Up the Road and Turn On Your Love Light, has
The 83-year-old died on Sunday at home in Memphis, Tennessee,
surrounded by his relatives, after complications from an ongoing
illness, his son Rodd said.
Known as "the Sinatra of the blues", Bland was influenced by Nat King
Cole's smooth vocals and lavish arrangements.
The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
The hall of fame described him as "second in stature only to BB King
as a product of Memphis's Beale Street blues scene".
"He brought a certain level of class to the blues genre,'' said
Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, son of veteran musician and producer Willie
Mitchell, who worked with stars including Al Green.
"He's always been the type of guy that if he could help you in any
way, form or fashion, he would,'' Rodd Bland added.
The singer, who at one stage in his life worked as BB King's valet and
chauffeur, was born in Rosemark, Tennessee, before moving as a
teenager to nearby Memphis.
There, he was a founding member of the Beale Streeters, a loose-knit
blues outfit that also included BB King and Johnny Ace.
Hall of Fame
He recorded in the early 50s with Sam Phillips, who also discovered
Elvis Presley, at Sun Records - but it was not until several years
later, following a stint in the army, that Bland found success.
His first number one in the R&B charts was Further On Up The Road in
1957, followed by I'll Take Care Of You in 1960 and a string of other
R&B hits including Turn On Your Love Light in 1961.
In the same year he recorded I Pity the Fool, which was later picked
up by singers including David Bowie and Eric Clapton, who also made
Further On Up the Road part of his repertoire.
Unlike many stars of the time, he played no instrument, relying solely
on his raw, gospel-toned vocals to propel the music. That fusion of
soul and blues, memorably highlighted on the 1961 album Two Steps From
The Blues, paved the way for the likes of Stax and Muscle Shoals later
in the decade.
Rolling Stone magazine named the album one of its 500 most influential
of all time, noting that Bland's performance on the songs I Pity the
Fool and Lead Me On "may just be some of the purest, most heartbroken
singing you'll ever hear".
The singer's style mellowed over the years, although a couple of
albums with his old collaborator King in the 1970s kept his profile,
and sex symbol status, high.
Although his output waned in later life, his legacy was kept alive by
hip-hop artists such as Jay-Z, who sampled his song Ain't No Love In
The Heart of the City,
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