Like many people my age, I learned about Bo Diddley not from any unremembered nostalgia for British Invasion swipes of the ancient bluesman’s slippery guitar technique, but from the myth-making “Bo Knows” Nike commercials of the late 80s. See the above YouTube clip and marinate on the ’88 cameos from MJ, Gibby, Gretz, Jim “Chris” Everett and John “Tennis Court for Your Birthday” McEnroe. Fuck, the only thing Phil Knight didn’t do was slip in Rakim and Big Daddy Kane (Bo knows Beats for the Listeners).
Of course, the one thing Bo Jackson couldn’t do was play guitar like Bo Diddley. No one plays guitar like Bo Diddley. This is just basic mathematics, a simple statistic you have to accept, like Supreme Clientele being the best rap record made in 00s, The Simpsons being the best show ever, and Lindsay Lohan being the only 21-year old in the history of time capable of copping senior citizen movie tickets without being carded. Diddley’s story doesn’t warrant a blog post, it warrants a biography or a biopic.* For now, check out the New York Times’ comprehensive obit and a surprisingly well-done 2005 Rolling Stone profile. **
Hailed as one of the three inventors of Rock N’ Roll along with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Diddley famously argued that he never received his full due. Obviously, he never heard Mos Def’s “Rock N’ Roll.” Indeed, considering all rock and blues experts already include him in the inner sanctum, Diddley’s place seems forever secure in the history books. Listening to his classic cuts a half century after its release, it’s not hard to fathom why Diddley is the rare artist capable of causing even the most facile writers to spew cliches invoking the words “raw” “primal,” and/or “funky.” It’s soul music before the term was invented. Bible material***With someone like Bo, words always seem cheap in comparison to the music. Also, there is this photograph and the fact that Diddley’s first-ever group was called “The Hipsters.” Hmmm….
R.I.P Bo Diddley (1928-2008).
*Jamie Foxx not required.
**Despite being written by the Dr. Nick Riviera of journalism, Neil Strauss.
***Unlike Starks, Bo Diddley will not pop up in your cereal.