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Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland Dies at 83

Bobby Bland
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

R&B icon Bobby “Blue” Bland died Sunday (June 23) from an ongoing illness in Memphis, Tenn., reports WREG-TV. The 83-year-old blues legend was surrounded by friends and family when he passed away.

Bland is considered one of the most powerful blues shouters of his generation. His distinctive grainy vocals drew heavily from his earlier days performing in gospel choirs and later with the Memphis blues band Beale Streeters, which included guitarist B.B. King.

In 1954, Bland signed a deal with Duke Records and, a year later, garnered his first hit single, ‘It’s My Life Baby.’

He went on to record several chart-topping songs in the 1950s and 1960s, including ‘Farther On Up the Road,’ ‘I’ll Take Care of You,’ ‘I Pity the Fool,’ ‘Don’t Cry No More,’ ‘Turn on Your Love Light’ and ‘That’s the Way Love Is.’

Bland’s 1961 album ‘Two Steps from the Blues’ is considered one of the greatest blues albums of all time.

“He was respected by so many people in the rock world and in the jazz world,” said Jay Sieleman of the Memphis Music Foundation. “He’s the Frank Sinatra of the blues. He’s respected for his voice and his phrasing. It’s going to be a huge loss to blues music.”

Bland’s music has been heavily sampled in hip-hop. Most notably, Kanye West used Bland’s bluesy ode ‘Ain’t No Love in the Heart Of The City’ for Jay-Z‘s classic anthem ‘Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love).’

In 1992, Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1997, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his career accomplishments.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Listen to Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City’

Listen to Jay-Z’s Song ‘Heart of the City (‘Ain’t No Love)’

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