The “Originator” of rock ‘n’ roll is dead. Bo Diddley (Dec 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008) was born in Mississippi, raised in Chicago, lived in Washington, D.C. for seven years (1959 to 1966) and was a key figure in that great movement that brought black roots into the mainstream. He created the driving, syncopated “Bo Diddley beat“.
Buddy Holly used it in 1957 on “Not Fade Away”, and most of the so-called British invasion bands like The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and the Who picked it up. Playing with The Clash in 1979, he introduced his sound to a new generation. The beat is everywhere – just listen to Justin Adams.
Bo Diddley played the beat without cord changes with innovative sound effects on his customized square Gretch guitar.
Bo Diddley in The Big TNT Show 1966
Bo Diddley boasted:
I’ve got a girl that live up on a hill
If she won’t love me her sister will.
This was his first single:
Bo Diddley (1955)
Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring,
If that diamond ring don’t shine,
He gonna take it to a private eye,
If that private eye can’t see
He’d better not take the ring from me.
Bo Diddley caught a nanny goat,
To make his pretty baby a Sunday coat,
Bo Diddley caught a bear cat,
To make his pretty baby a Sunday hat.
Mojo come to my house, black cat bone,
Take my baby away from home,
Ugly old mojo, where have you been,
Up to your house, and gone again.
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley have you heard?
My pretty baby said she wasn’t for it.
Bo Diddley’s style is related to hambone, in which musicians slap their arms, thighs and chest while chanting. Where did his stage name come from? According to Wikipedia, bo diddley is a southern black slang phrase for “a nobody”, worth nothing at all, as in “he ain’t bo diddley.” And “diddley bow” is what the ritti, the one-stringed instrument brought from Africa, came to be known as in the American South.
This may be a man’s stage, but Bo Diddley bucked tradition by putting a woman on rhythm guitar. First Peggy “Lady Bo” Jones and then “The Duchess“, Norma-Jean Wofford (ca. 1942-2005) added style, glamor and sex-appeal to the show.
Backstage, Bo Diddley looks back:
To get the polyrhythms beneath the beat right, count the “bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp. Bomp-bomp” beat out like this, stressing the words in bold:
One and two and three and four and
one and two and three and four and.
The Rolling Stones 1964: Not Fade Away
raised – erzogen
cord – Akkord
thighs – Schenkel
chest – Brust
to boast – prahlen
private eye – Detektiv
nanny goat – weibliche Ziege
mojo – Seele, Lebenskraft
to buck tradition – Tradition überbord werfen
duchess – Herzogin
englischlernen mit liedern 🙂 learning english with songs