They just don’t make singers like him anymore.
With vocals that were both guttural and gritty, yet sensual and sweet — Bobby “Blue” Bland had pipes, and his distinct growl made him an icon in the blues genre.
His storied career came to an end this weekend, when he passed away at the age of 83 due to complications from an ongoing illness.
Bland was known as the “Sinatra of the Blues” because of his super-suave persona and his flawless 1961 album Two Steps From the Blues, which should be required listening for anyone who appreciates soul.
The Rosemark, Tennessee-born singer was often overshadowed by his more famous contemporary, B.B. King. In fact when he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, he was described as “second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis’ Beale Street blues scene.”
But if you listen to contemporary artists like John Legend or Anthony Hamilton, the debt they owe Bland is unmistakable. His plaintive, emotive delivery has become the standard by which all serious soul men are measured.
Bland’s heyday was the late 50s and the early 60s, when he scored hits on the R&B charts with songs like “Further On Up the Road,” “I’ll Take Care of You” and “Turn On Your Light.”
His 1958 recording of “Little Boy Blue” was so beloved it became part of his moniker; he was known as Bobby “Blue” Bland for the rest of his career.
Ironically, it was hip-hop that made younger generations aware of the Memphis musician.
Bland’s phenomenal “Ain’t No Love (In the Heart of the City)” off his 1974 album Dreamer provides the foundation for Jay-Z’s hit song of the same name.
Hopefully, as the news of his death breaks, music fans will discover that he was more than a supplier of catchy hooks; he was one of the greatest voices of his generation.