Bobby “Blue” Bland has passed away. He was 83. Bland was a pioneer and champion of the modern soul-blues sound. Bland, along with contemporaries B.B. King, Ray Charles, and more, fused R&B, blues and soul with a fat big band sound. His trademark voice, a wailing “squall” inspired by Reverend C.L. Franklin (Aretha’s father), was recently ranked number 44 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers.
Bland was born in Rosemark, Tennessee and quickly moved to Memphis, where he took up performing on Beale Street and singing with gospel groups.
Bobby’s first hit, “It’s My Life Baby”, was released in 1955. In 1957, he released his smash single, “Farther On Up The Road”, which reached #1 in the R&B charts and solidified Bobby’s 50 year career as a soul and rhythm & blues hit-maker. He continued to release a stream of hits, including “Little Boy Blue”, “Cry Cry Cry”, “Turn On Your Love Light”, “I Pity the Fool”, “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do”, and more. Bland continued to record and tour extensively throughout the next thirty years. His 1974 single, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, from his Dreamer album, achieved international success. The single was sampled and remixed by rapper Jay-Z for his 2001 smash hit album, The Blueprint.
Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1997, he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.