Bobby “Blue” Bland
Bobby “Blue” Bland didn’t earn his nickname lightly. Listen to how he opens his 1959 classic “I’ll Take Care of You” — “I know you’ve been hurt . . . by someone else/I can tell by the way . . . you carry yourself,” every pause infused with a lifetime of observation and regret; it’s a vocal masterclass. Bland’s catalog teems with similarly perfect readings, from his unearthly moan to his bird-like squeal; everybody from Otis Redding to Van Morrison to Bonnie Raitt has learned from him. “It’s a one-of-a-kind voice,” said Gregg Allman. “I wonder how many people tore up their throats trying to imitate that shout.” —M.M.