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Bobby “Blue” Bland, known as the “Sinatra of the blues,” died Sunday in his Memphis, Tenn., home. He was 83 years old.
The “Turn on Your Love Light” and “Further on Up the Road” singer suffered from an ongoing illness, the Associated Press reports.
Bland was known for blending Southern blues and soul, and was heavily influenced by Nat King Cole. His first great success came in 1957, when Bland scored his first No. 1 song on the R&B charts with “Further on Up the Road.” Beginning in 1960, with “I’ll Take Care of You,” Bland recorded and released a dozen R&B hits in a row.
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Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
“Blues took a long time to get identified, and it’s not a good subject to a lot of people,” Bland said in a 2010 interview with Billboard. “They call it old folks’ music, and it’s a downer to the teenagers, because they haven’t had any problems. But a young boy told me one day — I think it was in St. Louis — he said ‘You know what, I’m 21 years old, and I’ve got every record [of yours]. He said ‘I’m young but I understand what you’re saying.’”
In the same interview, Bland recalled his early days working as B.B. King’s chauffeur.
“He won’t own up to it, but he’d let me ride with him,” Bland said. “I used to catch his shows by being there with him. I told him ‘I can sing just like you,’ and he said ‘Well, Bob, that’s good, but it won’t help you any.’ And I thought he was scared of me or whatever, but he was trying to tell me something for my own good.”
Said Bland’s son, Rodd: “He’s always been the type of guy that if he could help you in any way, form or fashion, he would.”
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