I’m digging deep into the vault for today’s track. This one is courtesy of The King Of The Blues, B.B. King. In 1997, at 71 years old, B.B. released an album called Deuces Wild. It transforms his most beloved hits into duets with some of the biggest names in music: The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman, Willie Nelson, and Joe Cocker to name a few. Even at 71 B.B. still had the incredible guitar chops and gruff, soulful vocals. He more than held his own with his much younger counterparts.
One of his duets was a remake of his 1971 classic “Ain’t Nobody Home” with 23-year-old neo-soul phenom D’Angelo. With only one album under his belt at the time D didn’t have the discography of most B.B.’s other duet partners on Deuces Wild, but apparently game recognize game. Young D’Angelo was brought on to sing the chorus and second verse of one of B.B. King’s most recognizable songs. To the surprise of nobody, D knocked it out of the park. I dig the rasp in his voice during his verse, in his own way trying to match the bluesy growl of B.B.
I do have a complaint about the song: It’s too clean. They’re singing about a woman who put them through “pain and misery” and how she’s back at his doorstep begging to take her back but ain’t nobody home. It’s shouldn’t sound this upbeat. This song needs some bluesy grime. The original version has some of it, but I would’ve liked to hear them take it way back. Check out young B.B. absolutely crushing “Three O’Clock Blues” from his aptly titled 1957 album “Singing’ the Blues.” B.B. and D’Angelo were in a studio having a blast. 1957 B.B. was singin’ the motherfucking blues. Maybe they should’ve just sang “There O’Clock Blues” for the Deuces Wild album instead.
Side note: Anytime the name B.B. King comes up all I can think of is Bono asking, “Where’s B.B.?” My brother introduced me to Rattle & Hum at a young age and it made an impression. Watching it now and hearing B.B. say, “I’m horrible with chords” is shocking. Here’s a 62-year-old known as one of the great guitarists in history saying he needs someone else to play chords. Later in the clip he’s improvising a flawless solo and he stops and says, “I don’t know what to do there,” and Bono replies with the exact thought I had: “Was that a joke?” I guess B.B. came to gigs with zero ego.
Well, that’s the little bit of insight I have into one of D’Angelo’s lesser known performances. B.B. passed away in 2015 at the age of 89. D’Angelo forever gets to say he had the honor of singing on the same record as The King Of The Blues. Tomorrow we get more of the same. Another D’Angelo song that’s not really a D’Angelo song. There were a lot of them early in his career. You’ve gotta dig a bit deeper in the D’Angelo catalog to find this one, but we’ll do just that on Thursday. Until then, enjoy your hump day.