Upon realizing that it was June 2nd, 2 years from Bo Diddley's passing, I scribbled this picture and hopped in my car, making my way towards McComb Mississippi and in two hours (blasting nothing but Bo) I showed up at this post; nobody was there and as far as I know the placement of this marker is arbitrary outside the fact that it's in McComb. But I wanted to pay my respects SOMEWHERE.
And when it was all done I remembered that I had this blog thing (I know, you thought I'd forgotten, right?). I don't think Bo is necessarily the best in rock & roll: but he's one of them and he's my favorite. Why?
- First and foremost, he taught me to do what you love and do it like you love it. He never said as much as far as I can tell, but it's what I draw from his songs and the way he delivers them. Have Guitar Will Travel I think is the best case in point, with his guitar screaming with the same amount of passion that he does throughout. He's always sincere, partially because he's not writing about anything too complex that he can't believe it or stand by it. Simple messages the he (and I, I guess) can get behind.
- Perhaps as a result of bulletpoint 1: he's completely original. Yeah yeah, "the originator" and inventor of the Bo Diddley Beat. Forget that, you can identify him with a half second of his guitar sound. Nobody has sounded like Bo Diddley; everybody that tried has failed and nobody can rip him off because it's too obvious (aside from use of the Bo Diddley beat)
- He appeals to the hacker side of me. I like to screw around with electronics and computers, and here's a musician that builds his own guitars, scooters, and cars.
- He didn't drink or do drugs. I never have and I'd rather not write that dissertation right here, but it's cool to know that somebody that stood apart so much didn't come up with all through substance assistance.
- His music sounds so Southern. Even though he grew up mostly in Chicago. Go figure.
There are a lot of people I could say these things about. Dick Dale was sober, original, passionate, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ike Turner I could attribute some of these to but the big one
- Never without his sense of humor. Despite the absurd bragging in his songs, his name is still Bo Diddley, which essentially means nobody. As much as he's singing from the heart, everything he's written is so lighthearted, but rarely a joke (excluding his riffs with Jerome). Oh yeah Frank Zappa incorporates humor... but he strikes me as a free jazz Weird Al. You can hear the smile on all of these and some of the songs are so deliberately stupid, but at the same time I had to agree when my friend called it "serious Rock & Roll". I really can't think of anybody else who managed to not separate their music from their humor in the same way and on such a consistent basis.
These are opinions and poorly evoked at that, but I wanted to write a tribute because in my book nobody will ever approach his little corner of music. He wasn't perfect (just a man amongst men you might say) and he made plenty of mistakes, but in a strange way he's been a spiritual model to me even though I have no real desire to touch an instrument.
So if you've stuck with me this far maybe you can join me in what I do every time I see this album cover. Raise your hand to the monitor, wave, and say "Hey Bo Diddley"