Bobby “Blue “ Bland, ‘Turn Your Love Light On’ Singer, Dies At 83
Bobby “Blue” Bland, singer of such hits as Turn On Your Love Light and That’s The Way Love Is, died Sunday evening at the age of 83.
Bland died at his home in Germantown, Tenn., on June 23. No specific cause of death was given. His son Rodd confirmed his death and stated that his father had died from an ongoing illness.
Though he never achieved the mainstream success of contemporaries such as Ray Charles and B. B. King, Bland was widely lauded for his controlled and emotional rhythm-and-blues songs, punctuated by “squalls,” as he called them. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981.
Bland was noted as a major influence for many musical artists, including Jay-Z, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Otis Redding. He was also known as “the Sinatra of the blues."
Bland was born Robert Calvin Brooks in Rosemark, Tenn., in 1930. After his father abandoned the family, he took the last name of his stepfather – Leroy Bridgeworth –who also went by Leroy Bland. He began singing in gospel choirs in Memphis, Tenn., after moving there with his mother in 1947.
One of Bland’s earliest influences came, however, when he was 11-12 years old, listening to a preacher’s sermon. “When he started into the preaching part, I stayed with him. Wasn't his words that got me – I couldn't tell you what he talked on that day, couldn't tell you what any of it meant, but it was the way he talked,” Bland told Rolling Stone. “He talked like he was singing. He talked music. The thing that really got me, though, was this squall-like sound he made to emphasize a certain word. He'd catch the word in his mouth, let it roll around and squeeze it with his tongue. When it popped on out, it exploded and the ladies started waving and shouting.”
Bland was passionate about singing, and pushed to keep recording until just a few weeks before his death; his physical weakness was the only thing that kept him from doing it. “Down to four or five weeks before his death, he was asking me to record him,” said Bobby Rush, a musician and longtime friend. "He had the mind to do it but he wasn't physically strong enough to do it."