The music world today mourns the loss of legendary Blues and R&B singer Bobby “Blue” Bland, who died this past Sunday (June 23) after a battle with an undisclosed illness. He was 83.
Bland’s son, Rodd, confirmed the news of his father’s passing with the Associated Press. According to the report, Bland died in his Memphis, Tenn. home surrounded by family.
Bland’s career began by singing in gospel groups in the 1940s, eventually joining the Beale Street music collective in downtown Memphis which included B.B. King, Johnny Ace and other Blues notables.
Bland was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1952, putting a halt on his career. After being discharged in 1954, Bland would hold a series of odd jobs before singing with Duke Records. His first hit record, “Farther Up On The Road,” was released in 1957. Bland was known for mixing his gospel influences with the rhythm and blues styling of the time. The nickname “Blue” came about because of Bland’s preference to sing about heartbreak and relationships.
Often known as the “Sinatra Of the Blues,” Bland was a known admirer of singers Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. Although Bland’s music sold reasonably well in the R&B market, he never broke onto the pop charts routinely. His highest charting pop record, “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” reached #20 in the 1960s. Despite this, Bland continued to enjoy a robust touring schedule and was a beloved fixture of the so-called “chitlin circuit” scene.
Kanye West sampled Bland’s 1974 hit “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” for Jay-Z’s track, “Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love)” from Hov’s 2001 album, The Blueprint. Other rappers who have sampled Bland’s work include 50 Cent, French Montana, and the GZA.
Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1992.
Photo: The Flint Journal