RSS
Remembering Bo Diddley
Rock
 

W

hat happened
Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Bo Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Florida on Monday at the age of 79. Known for his black hat, dark glasses, and homemade square guitar, Diddley recorded over 30 albums and was responsible for such songs as “Who Do You Love?” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.” (AP)

What the commentators said

“Rock ‘n’ roll has lost a founding father,” said Patrick Donovan in The Age. “Diddley’s syncopated, percussive, propulsive rhythm guitar playing, backed by shuffling maracas, was inspired by an African drum beat,” and it was that rhythm that “helped lay rock ‘n’ roll’s foundation.” Bo Diddley influenced everyone from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, to the Rolling Stones and the White Stripes.

But Diddley never felt that he got his proper due, said Jim Harrington in The Mercury News. He “remained bitter that his contributions to popular music weren’t held in higher regard by the public,” and he was “vocal in his complaints” that he—not Elvis—deserved “coronation as the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’” And “out of all the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, Diddley experienced the least amount of commercial success.”

And he also “frequently complained about not being paid royalties during his peak years,” said Jim Loney in Reuters. He had a point: “Along with such contemporaries as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, he was among a pioneering group of black recording artists who crossed the American racial divide with music that appealed to white audiences and was emulated by white performers.” But even “in recent years,” Diddley was still recording albums and touring because “he said he needed the money.”

But Diddley “was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987,” said Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chronicle, “and given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1998.” And “his music never went away. Not only did it continue to turn up on movie soundtracks such as Dirty Dancing, Color of Money, Boys Don’t Cry and others, his songs have been recorded by a vast number of other artists.”
 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week