Bo Diddley, RIP

Fittingly only a few days after CEI’s dinner celebrated the Great Revolutionary Ideas, it’s time to pay tribute to a music revolutionary, Bo Diddley, who passed away yesterday, at his home in Archer, Florida, near Gainesville, where he lived for 30 years. As his adopted hometown paper, The Gainesville Sun notes, he was very much part of the community, where I lived during most of the 1990s. I once even saw him having lunch at a sub shop around the corner from my house.

While he would play around town occasionally, the best performance of his I saw was in New York, at the Little Steven’s Garage festival in August 2004, which featured bands he’d influenced, including the New York Dolls and the Stooges, which is fitting. Bo always seemed happy to play with musicians he’d influenced — he toured with the Clash on their first U.S. tour. And his influence is hard to overestimate, as the Sun notes:

With Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, Diddley became one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-1950s. The guitarist/singer/songwriter scored major pop hits with “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man” in 1955 on Chicago’s Chess Records, and drew attention to rock ‘n’ roll’s backbeat on a label primarily known for the blues.

From there, his “dunt da dunt da dunt, da dunt dunt” beat became an integral – and instantly identifiable – part of rock ‘n’ roll’s grammar. And his sound influenced artists in styles as diverse as rockabilly, punk, hip-hop, British invasion pop and others…

A legend, indeed, and to me, he’ll always be a local legend to boot.