Bobby "Blue " Bland, who was one of the greatest singers all of time, just passed away at 83. Although he was primarily known as a "blues" singer, his singular style encompassed everything from soul, jazz, blues, funk and gospel , rock-n-roll, and occasionally a little country. He was one of my favorite singers. I wrote on him here. I first discovered his music when I was a young teen. It was miles apart from Muddy Waters or Jimi Hendrix which is what I was into at the time so I didn't pay him a lot of mind. It wasn't until I had grown up a bit, gone through some heartbreak of my own and gotten some bass in my voice that I went back to my parents' Bobby Bland records and really listened. I think I also got interested in his music when I learned that he was tight with BB King, who I've always been crazy about. In any event, he's passed on to his ancestors and left a lot of good music behind. In a lot of aspects Bobby Bland was the epitome of cool to me, along with people like Johnny Hartmann, Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding. He could scream if he had to but his crooning baritone voice was something I loved listening to and always tried to emulate. He showed that even in music that was called "blues" there were just a million and one different styles, sounds and approaches. If you weren't hip to him shame on you because you missed out but his music lives on.
Bobby (Blue) Bland, the debonair balladeer whose sophisticated, emotionally fraught performances helped modernize the blues, died on Sunday in Memphis. He was 83.The cause was complications from an ongoing illness, The Associated Press reported, quoting his son Rodd. Though he possessed gifts on a par with his most consummate peers, Mr. Bland never achieved the popular acclaim enjoyed by contemporaries like Ray Charles and B. B. King. His restrained vocals, punctuated by the occasional squalling shout, nevertheless made him a mainstay on the rhythm-and-blues charts and club circuit for decades.
Exhibiting a delicacy of phrasing and command of dynamics akin to those of the most urbane pop and jazz crooners, his intimate pleading left its mark on everyone from the soul singers Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to rock groups like the Allman Brothers and the Band. The rapper Jay-Z sampled Mr. Bland’s 1974 single “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, “The Blueprint.”Mr. Bland’s signature mix of blues, jazz, pop, gospel and country music was a good decade in the making. His first recordings, made in the early 1950s, found him working in the lean, unvarnished style of Mr. King, even to the point of employing falsetto vocal leaps patterned after Mr. King’s. Mr. Bland’s mid-50s singles were more accomplished; hits like “It’s My Life, Baby” and “Farther Up the Road” are now regarded as hard-blues classics, but they still featured the driving rhythms and stinging electric guitar favored by Mr. King and others.
It wasn’t until 1958’s “Little Boy Blue,” a record inspired by the homiletic delivery of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, that Mr. Bland arrived at his trademark vocal technique.“That’s where I got my squall from,” Mr. Bland said, referring to the sermons of Mr. Franklin — “Aretha’s daddy,” as he called him — in a 1979 interview with the author Peter Guralnick. “After I had that I lost the high falsetto. I had to get some other kind of gimmick, you know, to be identified with.”
The corresponding softness in Mr. Bland’s voice, a refinement matched by the elegant formal wear in which he appeared onstage, came from listening to records by pop crooners like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Perry Como.Just as crucial to the evolution of Mr. Bland’s sound was his affiliation with the trumpet player and arranger Joe Scott, for years the director of artists and repertory for Duke Records in Houston. Given to writing brass-rich arrangements that built dramatically to a climax, Mr. Scott, who died in 1979, supplied Mr. Bland with intricate musical backdrops that set his supple baritone in vivid emotional relief. The two men accounted for more than 30 Top 20 rhythm-and-blues singles for Duke from 1958 to 1968, including the No. 1 hits “I Pity the Fool” and “That’s the Way Love Is.” Steeped in feelings of vulnerability and regret, many of these performances were particularly enthralling to the female portion of Mr. Bland’s audience.