Nona Hendryx, Vernon Reid in Original Berklee Student Musical on B.B. King

By 
Nick Balkin
April 15, 2011
Nona Hendryx
Vernon Reid
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Each year Berklee students write and produce an original musical honoring an American music icon. This year's musical tells the story of the life and work of B.B. King. The show will feature two special guest performers—Grammy-nominated vocalist Nona Hendryx (Labelle, solo) and Grammy-winning guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour)—and the musical talents of more than 20 Berklee students. 

B.B. King: Why I Sing the Blues takes place Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 1 at 3:00 p.m. in the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, in Boston. Tickets are $10 and are available online through ticketmaster.com. For more information, call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com. The BPC is wheelchair accessible.

The musical traces King's life from his humble beginnings in the Mississippi Delta to his place as an internationally beloved entertainer and icon of blues music. The show will feature some of his most popular songs, such as "Sweet Sixteen," "Rock Me Baby," "Why I Sing the Blues," and "The Thrill is Gone." Grammy-nominated drummer Terri Lyne Carrington will serve as ensemble director. The musical is directed by Berklee associate professor Rebecca Perricone and produced by associate professor Amy Merrill

Nona Hendryx is an ambassador of artistry in education at Berklee. She performed at the 2010 Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, and Skin Diver, her futuristic rock opera, was recently workshopped by Berklee students. From her beginnings with Labelle, to her stunning solo career, to her induction into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1999, Hendryx has always been on the cutting edge of music. With Labelle, she racked up three gold albums and a No. 1 worldwide hit with "Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi Ce Soir?)." Recently, Hendryx toured festivals in Europe with the Daughters of Soul (Sandra St. Victor, Indira Khan, Lisa Simone, Lalah Hathaway, and Joyce Kennedy), toured in the U.S with Cyndi Lauper on the True Colors tour, and reunited with Patti Labelle for a 2008-2009 tour.

Vernon Reid is best known for his lightning-fast guitar solos, leading the pioneering multi-platinum rock band Living Colour, and founding the Black Rock Coalition, a collective promoting the creative freedom and development of black rock musicians. Born in London, Reid emigrated to Brooklyn with his family while he was a child. He began playing guitar at 15, initially studying jazz and progressing quickly. In 1980, he joined drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, a cutting-edge jazz group with whom he appeared on six albums. Over the course of the decade, Reid went on to work with a wide variety of experimental musicians—Defunkt, Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, and Public Enemy, among others.