B.B. King: 10 head-turning collaborations

Posted at 10:12 AM, May 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 10:12:43-04

When B.B. King passed away on Thursday, the world lost one of music’s great collaborators.

During a career that lasted over 70 years, King worked with nearly every icon of blues music, including Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt. He won Grammy Awards for separate collaborations with Eric Clapton and Dr. John — part of his 15 career wins, an unmatched number in the blues genre.

But King was not afraid to cross genre lines and step into the studio with pop, country or even rap artists. Below are 10 of King’s most head-turning collaborations.

Collaborator: Brad Paisley
“Let the Good Times Roll” (2008)

Brad Paisley is known as one of country music’s top guitar slingers so when he recorded his 2008 record “Play: The Guitar Album,” it was no surprise that he reached out to B.B. King for help. The pair cut a cover of the 1946 blues standard “Let the Good Times Roll,” which King had previously recorded.

After news of King’s passing broke late Thursday, Paisley took to Twitter to pay tribute to his former collaborator.


Collaborator: D’Angelo
“Ain’t Nobody Home” (1997)

Showing tremendous foresight, King, 72 at the time, recorded this track with 23-year-old D’Angelo, just two years after the singer’s debut album. Today, D’Angelo has become one of music’s most acclaimed artists and this joint effort with King was one of his first collaborations.


Collaborator: John Mayer
“Hummingbird” (2005)

Part of King’s Grammy Award-winning 2005 collaboration album “B.B. King & Friends: 80,” this track sees two guitar giants united. “Hummingbird” was written by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Leon Russell and this version shows King was cool as ever at 80 years old.


Collaborator: Primitive Radio Gods
“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” (1996)

It was one of the most ear-catching singles of the 1990s, helped largely by a sample of one of King’s early recordings. The song’s signature chorus, “I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met,” was taken from King’s 1964 version of “How Blue Can You Get.” Primitive Radio Gods never had another hit.


Collaborator: U2
“When Love Comes to Town” (1988)

One of the standouts from U2’s “Rattle and Hum,” this track joined King and the Irish rockers together for a tight, high-energy tune. King’s voice booms alongside Bono and his twangy guitar is instantly recognizable against U2’s signature sound. The song topped the Irish charts in 1989.


Collaborator: Ringo Starr
“Ghetto Woman” (1971)

One year after King’s career was reignited by the success of “The Thrill is Gone,” he flew to the U.K. and recorded an album backed by several British music icons. Three tracks on the record featured drum work by Ringo Starr, including “Ghetto Woman,” a tune co-written by King and Dave Clark. The album also featured work from Steve Winwood, Jim Keltner and Gary Wright.


Collaborator: Elton John
“Rock This House” (2005)

When King was wrapping production on his 2005 collaboration album “B.B. King & Friends: 80,” this upbeat boogie with Elton John was selected to close the record.


Collaborator: Big K.R.I.T.
“Praying Man” (2012)

King was 87 years old when this track was recorded in 2012, making him possibly the oldest person to actively collaborate on a rap song. When producing the song, rapper Big K.R.I.T. told MTV, “[King] heard the record, he loved it and he also played the guitar on it. He gave it his own feel.” The song was one of King’s last great collaborations.


Collaborator: Etta James
“There’s Something on Your Mind” (1993)

King’s 1993 album “Blues Summit” offered a banquet of collaborations with iconic artists from blues, soul and R&B. This slinky track with Etta James clocks in at over 6 minutes and today stands as a reminder of two powerful voices that are now gone.


Collaborator: Willie Nelson
“Night Life” (1997)

Two rootsy legends who were well past 60 got together for this track that closed 1997’s “Deuces Wild.” At one point, Willie Nelson tells his partner, “Alright, B.B., play the blues,” before King unleashes a brief guitar solo that could move an audience to tears.

B.B. King passed away on Thursday, he was 89 years old.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.