Monday, June 2, 2008

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, Bo Diddley

(Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)

Bo Diddley, the legendary singer and performer, known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat, died earlier today at the age of 79. In addition to being and seminal and endearing influence on popular music, he was an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award in 1999 at the Grammy Awards. In recent years he also played for the elder President Bush and President Clinton.

Needless to say, the bestowed honors and accalades he achieved later in life did not translate into a larger bankbook, quipping "If you ain't got no money, ain't nobody calls you honey," and "I am owed. I've never got paid...A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."

It was the seminal Chicago-based Chess Records that gave Bo his big break, using his breakthrough 1955 single "Bo Diddley" to introduce his signature rhythm to the record-buying public: bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp, often summarized as "shave and a haircut, two bits." The B side, "I'm a Man," with its slightly humorous take on macho pride, also became a rock standard.

Diddley's other major songs included, "Say Man," "Pills," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," "Shave and a Haircut," "Uncle John," and "Who Do You Love?"

I had the privilege of seeing Bo performing live in 1985, when he headlined one of Fabian's "Good Time Rock & Roll" Oldies revues. What got the audience really involved was his rendition of the 'Star-Spangled Banner" on electric guitar.

Bo Diddley's influence on popular and rock music can never be underestimated nor measured adequately. Your body of work will outlive you as great examples of what you can do with a homemade guitar. Rest in peace, Bo.

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