Robert Calvin Bland, better known as Bobby "Blue" Bland, died Sunday at the age of 83. The loss of Bland and George Jones in such a short span leaves a gaping hole where the great singers used to be.
Bobby Blue Bland was one of the all-time best R&B vocalists, with a voice that could move on a dime from silky smooth to powerful, and convey an entire emotional life of hard knocks in a single line. Frequently compared to Frank Sinatra, Bland was a singer's singer, with impeccable tone and timing. Van Morrison frequently cites Bobby Blue Bland as one of his favorite singers and biggest influences.
Bland had a string of hits in the '50's and '60's, but my favorite is "I Pity the Fool" from 1961:
Bland was born in Tennessee but moved to Memphis with his family at an early age and got his start there. He paid some serious dues on his way up, serving as a driver and aide to Junior Parker and BB King. BB King though remained very loyal to his protege and the two frequently performed together when King made it big.
Perhaps Bland's best known song is the frequently covered "Turn On Your Love Light", also featured in the Blues Brothers movie. Here is Bland's original version from 1961:
And one more, "That's The Way Love Is" (1963):