Bobby "Blue" Bland, the man Van Morrison chose as his opening act when the singer played the 2010 Edmonton Folk Music Festival, died on June 23, 2013, at his home in Memphis, Tenn. He was 83.
Unlike most prominent blues performers that gain notoriety for their guitar or harmonica chops, Bland was known strictly as a vocalist, often referred to as the Sinatra of the blues. Though he never managed to become a chart-topping success, Bland’s blend of gospel, blues and R&B, fostered alongside contemporaries like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, continues to have a lasting impression on modern music. His powerful voice gave life to such songs as “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “I Pity the Fool,” “Turn on Your Love Light” and his most notable release from 1957, “Farther Up the Road.”
Bland is one of those artists who was, perhaps, more highly regarded by other musicians than by the general public. Mick Hucknall of Simply Red released a disc in 2008 called Tribute to Bobby, featuring songs intrinsically connected to Bland. On Jay Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint, the track “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” produced by Kanye West, samples Bland’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.”
Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in only its second year of existence, in 1981, by the Blues Foundation.
On June 28, in honour of this great talent, the CBC Music 24-hour blues stream will kick off each hour with a song from Bobby “Blue” Bland.
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