Thursday, 5 June 2008

Bo Diddley 1928 - 2008

Obituary by Simon Bamford

Bo Diddley, rock‘n’roll pioneer, died of a heart attack aged 79 on 2nd June 2008. Born Otha Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi, on December 30 1928, he acquired the name ‘Bo Diddley’ in his teens while training as a Golden Gloves boxer. Singing on street corners and playing guitar with The Hipsters he heard the great John Lee Hooker and was inspired to take his music in a new direction. His trademark sound of pounding rhythm and ballsy guitar, mixed with his unique vocal style, produced several hits in the early sixties including ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Road Runner’. His style and sound was copied by many including Buddy Holly on ‘Not Fade Away’. At this time, racial segregation in the USA was a day-to-day reality and black artists were not exempt; success could be had in the pop charts by white artists who copied elements of black performers’ styles. Meanwhile the black artists were themselves mostly confined to the less lucrative R‘n’B charts. The charts themselves were a form of segregation. Later in the decade he inspired a new generation of British musicians and bands in the late sixties including Jimmy Page, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. These musicians gave him recognition. He opened for The Clash on their ‘79 American tour. He used his bunk on the tour bus to store his guitar and introduced the band to moonshine. He continues to be an inspiration to musicians to this day. In May 2007 he suffered a stroke after a gig in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was discharged from hospital a month later.

I saw the man around 1983 at Dingwalls in Sheffield (now The Leadmill I believe). The details are as foggy as the drive back over the moors that night, but I do remember two things at least; it was one hell of a gig and of course those trademark rectangular (and sometimes furry) guitars.

He is survived by his wife Sylvia and four children from previous marriages.

Goodbye to a true great - irreplaceable.

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