Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bo Diddley, R.I.P.

This is a little old, but I thought it appropriate to mention the death of Bo Diddley, born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi. Anyone who has ever learned to play the electric guitar has had to explore the driving right-hand rhythms created by this pioneer.

A lot of the obits that appeared this week credit Bo with creating the Bo Diddley beat - that bam, b'bam, b'bam, bop, bop. Actually, he didn't create it - it's a classic Haitian drum rhythm. But he did adopt the beat for the electric guitar, crank up the distortion and belt out some timeless lyrics filled with stark broken imagery, down South bravado and proto-rock sexiness.

And yeah, he got swindled on those royalty payments. The rocker in me says that's a crime. The lawyer in me says, he should've read what he signed. And if he didn't, he should've hired himself a better lawyer.

Another thing - his early band appears to have included the earliest female electric guitarist I've ever seen; it certainly looks like he had the first mixed-sex rock outfit. Thus Bo paved the way for such great acts as Jefferson Airplane, Feetwood Mac, Blondie, the Talking Heads, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, the Pixies and others!

And then there's the cameo appearance as a pawnbroker in the Dan Akroyd-Eddie Murphy classic, Trading Places. Actually, his IMDB bio shows a fair number of cameos and appearances as himself or otherwise.

Anyway, here are some classic clips of Bo working his four sided six string:

Rest in peace, Bo Diddley. Thank you for your music. You will be missed.

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