I was eight years old when Bobby "Blue" Bland scored his final R'n'B hit That's The Way Love Is in 1963, and it would be a few more years before I bought my first 7-inch vinyl singles (Little Stevie Wonder and the Dave Clark Five were my first purchases). But once I started to get really interested in the golden years of R'n'B _ from the late 40s to the early 60s _ Bland's songs and his influential singing style quickly won me over.
Now, with the late great blues singer passing away a few days ago at the age of 83, it is time to pay tribute to a musician who was never fully recognised for his pioneering work.
Robert Calvin Brooks was born in Rosemark, Tennessee. He took his surname from his stepfather and, like other blues giants such as Howlin' Wolf, he grew up in poverty. Bland never attended school and remained illiterate all his life. A move to Memphis by his mother when he was in his early teens, however, changed his life.
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