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B.B. King: Life of a Blues Legend and Guitar Hero

For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, King was the undisputed king of the blues.

. B.B. King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname "King of the Blues," died on May 14. He was 89.

ABOVE: B.B. King performs at Belly Up Tavern in 2013 in Solana Beach, California.

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. John Mayer and B.B. King perform at "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live" in Los Angeles in 2008.

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. U2's The Edge, left, and Bono stand with B.B. King at "The Blues & Jazz" Gala Concert at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles in 2008.

King played a Gibson guitar he affectionately called Lucille with a style that included beautifully crafted single-string runs punctuated by loud chords, subtle vibratos and bent notes.

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. B.B. King performs in 1989 in Paris.

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. B.B. King performs on the television show "'The Tube."

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. B.B. King stands in the street with his guitar.

Vandell Cobb / EBONY COLLECTION

. B.B. King performs onstage with his Gibson hollowbody electric guitar nicknamed "Lucille," circa 1975.

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. B.B. King performs at Chino State Prison on May 15, 1972 in Chino, California.

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. B. B. King performs at the 1969 Black Expo in Chicago.

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. B.B. King, Eric Clapton, center, and Elvin Bishop perform together in 1967 in New York City.

For most of a career spanning nearly 70 years, King was not only the undisputed king of the blues but a mentor to scores of guitarists, who included Eric Clapton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Keith Richards.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

. B.B. King poses with a guitar in Memphis in 1948.

Born Riley B. King on Sept. 16, 1925, on a tenant farm near Itta Bena, Mississippi, he was raised by his grandmother after his parents separated and his mother died. He worked as a sharecropper for five years.

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