It was 2008 and I was on assignment in the US, covering the opening of the BB King Museum in Indianola, Mississippi. The museum is one of the few in the world to be dedicated to a single musician, and this only miles from where BB King was born into poverty, his parents being sharecroppers, picking cotton under that unforgiving Mississippi sun.
The whole town turned out, and the great man was emotional throughout. He held a press conference, and I’ll always remember his words: “They say heaven is beautiful, and if it’s half as beautiful as this, then I’m ready to go today.”
The conference finished and as the room disbanded, people milled around and I found myself standing next to the man himself. We made eye contact and I blurted out the only thing I could think of to say…”Mr King, how do you feel today?”
He looked at me and I could feel the enormous weight of his achievements, of a life lead to the fullest fulfilment of musical potential, of someone who clawed their way from humble beginnings and succeeded, but didn’t lose that humility. I was there, exposed in the glare of his stature, a nobody, and him, a legend.
But he looked at me with these kind eyes, two people just sharing a human moment as chaos whirled around us, and as he leaned in, he whispered to me and I’ll never forget what he said before his managers and publicists whisked him away. “Son,” he said quietly, “Which newspaper do you work for exactly?”