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The Thrill Is Strong for 80-Year-Old B.B. King

B.B. King arrives at the party in his honor in Encino, Calif.
Toya Baker, NPR
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B.B. King arrives at the party in his honor in Encino, Calif.
A copy of King's beloved guitar "Lucille," signed by other famous musicians, was auctioned off for charity.
Toyia Baker, NPR /
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A copy of King's beloved guitar "Lucille," signed by other famous musicians, was auctioned off for charity.

"The Thrill is Gone" may be one of B.B. King's best-known songs -- but fans of the legendary bluesman, who just turned 80 years old, say their thrill is strong.

King has a new CD and book about his life out this month, and continues to tour with his band, playing to crowds across the globe. Friends and family gathered at a Southern California home recently to celebrate King's birthday with backyard concert that featured performances from some of his oldest and dearest friends.

Chicago's Buddy Guy, a blues legend in his own right, gave an electrifying performance. Gladys Knight, who calls B.B. King "Uncle B.B.," joined with her brother Merald "Bubba" Knight -- one of the Pips -- to sing a tribute.

Actress and singer Della Reese was there, too. She once performed with King in the segregated jazz clubs of the 1940s and '50s, and calls his brand of the blues an "answer to sadness."

The party doubled as a fundraiser for the B.B. King Museum in the musician's hometown of Indianola, Miss. Hosts of the birthday bash, King's old friends William and Mary Haskell, are also organizing "Mississippi Rising" -- a benefit concert to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Farai Chideya
Farai Chideya is a multimedia journalist who has worked in print, television, online, and radio. Prior to joining NPR's News & Notes, Chideya hosted Your Call, a daily news and cultural call-in show on San Francisco's KALW 91.7 FM. Chideya has also been a correspondent for ABC News, anchored the prime time program Pure Oxygen on the Oxygen women's channel, and contributed commentaries to CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and BET. She got her start as a researcher and reporter at Newsweek magazine. In 1997 Newsweek named her to its "Century Club" of 100 people to watch.
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