:: Tuesday, August 23, 2005 ::

Hey, Bo Diddley!
Bo Diddley, courtesy of the Blues Hall of Fame, www.blueshalloffame.com/I was thrilled to find that Rolling Stone is paying tribute to one of the godfathers of rock'n'roll, Bo Diddley. Neil Strauss has written a fine piece about the man with the boxy guitar and the riff that resonates through rock'n'roll to this day. Bo Diddley is now 76 and "reeling from diabetes, back problems and a pending divorce," but Strauss points out that even today, "the man is simply inventive."

I've never fully appreciated Bo Diddley. How could I? Having grown up with the Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and others who had sprouted from the roots of rock -- Strauss's "holy trinity" of rock gods: Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. But I'm not the only one who has held Diddley in lower esteem than, say, Chuck Berry. (I've never been a big Little Richard fan.) It took repeated listenings to the "Bo Diddley" cover on Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band's Live Bullet in the '70s before I really caught on.

"Diddley's importance," Strauss writes, "is acknowledged but less often celebrated. His music strikes many as more simple, more direct than his contemporaries, yet it remains more difficult to categorize, understand or explain."

Strauss continues:
Listen to "Bo Diddley" and you won't hear the teenage fantasy of Berry's "School Day" or the youth-gone-wild adrenaline of Richard's "Tutti Frutti." It is slower and unearthly, with a space-age tremolo guitar rippling through the song, the nervous rattle of constantly shaking maracas and a staggered shuffle-beat that sounds completely primal yet wholly original.

"'Maybellene' is a country song sped up," says George Thorogood, who has covered Diddley songs on at least half his records. "'Johnny B. Goode' is blues sped up. But you listen to 'Bo Diddley,' and you say, 'What in the Jesus is that?' You sit there and you get numb listening to it."

Keith Richards recalls experiencing the same shock. "Muddy [Waters] and Chuck were close to the straight electric blues," he said. "But Bo was fascinatingly on the edge. There was something African going on in there. His style was outrageous, suggesting that the kind of music we loved didn't just come from Mississippi. It was coming from somewhere else."
Just think about the song "Bo Diddley," and that funky riff. How many times has it been infused into rock songs through the decades? RS mentions a few: "[E]verything from the Who's 'Magic Bus' to U2's 'Desire' to Bruce Springsteen's 'She's the One' to George Michael's 'Faith' is based on the ubiquitous Diddley beat." To which I would add Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" and George Thorogood's "Who Do You Love?" I'm sure there are others; I just can't think of them right now.


:: Andrew 07:20 + ::

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