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The Brightness

BB King


He was the king, and they said that being Fire over Fire, he could walk through flames and emerge unscathed.

The I Ching’s double fire sign, Li, means “to cling to something,” and “the brightness.” A luminous thing must contain something within itself that perseveres; otherwise it will burn itself out. It must hold fuel to nourish the flame.

Oh yes, Lord, he held on to it. The clinging fused with his being, behind flesh, beyond flesh, illuminating skin to nerve to bone, flowing through his bloodstream like a river of stars. Everything in him was alive with it, grasping it, lit by it. It informed him, defined him. Music was his flame and his fuel.

It was a Twist night gig, where jealousy and anger filled two men and spilled over into the dance hall. Their fight over a woman set the place ablaze. It almost cost the king his guitar, left behind in the mad rush to the door. He went back into the flames for it. When the smoke cleared, the name of the woman who set the night on fire was revealed. A phoenix rising from the ashes, the brightness and the clinging found its name: Lucille.

He knew he was here for this: the blues. A radiant, full hand rocking the string back and forth, bending time with sound. You are here to give witness to the luminosity, to feel its heat, and its truth. From smoky club to concert hall, the spark of his double fire kindled the lamp of every listener. The vibrato shines its light on a path for you. Go this way, brother. Keep it lit.