Monday, June 02, 2008
Bo Diddley, R.I.P.
Here he is, one of the inventors of rock n roll, Mr Bo Diddley, seated in the front of this golf cart that is whisking the singer, songwriter and guitar hero to the stage at Randall's Island where he was performing when this photo was taken in August, 2004.
This is the only photo I ever took of Bo, and ironically, it is of him zipping by fast, like a blur... when in actuality, Bo was a person of endurance and enduring influence. Thankfully, I've seen him perform dozens of times over the years. In addition to seeing him perform at Randall's Island in 2004, I saw Bo together with Ronnie Wood on several dates of a tour they did in 1987. I realize that was more than 20 years ago, but it seems like yesterday.
Faces & Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and Faces and one-time Stones keyboard player, Ian McLagan
Born December 30, 1928 as Otha Ellas Bates and raised by his mother's cousin, before becoming Bo Diddley, he became Ellas B. McDaniel after a death in the family, the officialization of his aunt as guardian and relocation to Chicago. It wasn't until 1954, during a recording session that Ellas B. McDaniel became Bo Diddley and penned a song after his new moniker. That might possibly have been the first time anyone heard the famous syncopated guitar signature that so many rockers relied on to propel their own songs.
The Rolling Stones were among the greatest contributors to contemporary rock n roll, and they too relied upon the Bo Diddley beat, and covered more than their fare of Bo's material.
Johnny Thunders of The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls however, recorded my favorite ever cover of a Bo Diddley song - Pills. That's the one most people think is called Rock n Roll Nurse because of the rollicking chorus... (note: there IS a great song that is actually called Rock n Roll Nurse, written by Jack Yarber, and recorded by the Compulsive Gamblers, one of the bands Yarber was in with Greg Cartwright (the other band being the Oblivians.) Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers continue to perform Jack's Rock n Roll Nurse, and it is a show-stopper.)
David Johansen & Syl Sylvain, the original and surviving New York Dolls
What is always exciting in music is when influences collide and jump-start appreciation for the influence, and then takes on a life of its own. Back in the beginnings of punk rock, a future classic Rock n Roll Hall of Famer emerged on the scene simultaneously... he was part of a new wave but he was NOT NEW WAVE, or punk for that matter... just had the punk ethos that we like... and he blended a Bo Diddley beat over a Byrds style verse and Byrds/Beatles jangle on his American Girl track... Tom Petty indeed gave credit where credit was due. Whenever he was interviewed about that song, he paid respects and said, "That's a Bo Diddley beat."
Rock n roll would be nowhere without the contributions of Bo Diddley a handful of other players of his generation. Revere them while they are with us.
Rest in Peace Bo. We all love you.