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Say Thank You

We’ve been playing with Victor Wooten’s book “The Music Lesson” where he invites us to a bigger understanding of what makes music. Today I’m going to jump to the end of the list. His final lesson is a postscript, really, but it’s an essential element. It is the affirmation that music is more than an external “thing”, it is a relationship:

“Say Thank You. In all your musical years, have you ever, truthfully, said “thank you” to your instrument?”

This week B. B. King died. There were many, many moving tributes to this undisputed icon of the blues. Thousands of serious musicians list him as a major influence in their own journey. His voice and his presence will be missed.

B.B. King had played Gibson guitars since the 1940’s. In 1982 they officially joined forces and created the “BB King: The signature tone of a blues legend.” What’s more important is that King gave his guitars a name: Lucille. The story goes that in 1948 B.B. was playing a gig in a bar in Arkansas. A couple of guys got into a fight and knocked over an open kerosene drum heater that started a fire. After everyone was evacuated, King realized that he had left his beloved Gibson guitar behind and he ran back into the burning building to rescue it. Later he learned that the men had been fighting over a woman named Lucille and so he took that name for his prized instrument, to remind himself not to fight over women or run into burning buildings!

Naming something is a profound act of respect and relationship. Naming acknowledges connection. It is a way of saying “thank you.” I never saw B.B. King perform live. But I believe that he said “thank you” a lot … to those who were his colleagues and collaborators, as well as to his fans and his family. And clearly, he adored and respected his partner in music-making so much that he gave her a name.

Say “thank you.” Gratitude is an essential element of making music.

What is your instrument? Where do you need to say ‘thank you’ this week?


B.B. King’s discography includes more than 50 albums. See the full list here.

Why I Sing the Blues

How Blue Can You Get? 1972 – Sing Sing Prison Ossining NY

B.B. King Live at Royal Albert Hall, 2011