Bo Diddley is Gone (but his riff lives on)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bo Diddley died yesterday, at 79.

These days, I think of Bo Diddley most often because at church we occasionally sing a worship chorus that starts with a classic Bo Diddley rhythm. BUM-pa BUM-pa…pa-pa-pa-pa-pa BUMP. I'm not sure our young drummer even knows the riff's source.

But in the late 1960's, while I was in high school and community college, Bo Diddley’s music was a staple on the L.A. Top 40 station I listened to. Diddley himself lived about half-way between my house and Granada Hills High School. It was only about a block off the route I walked every day to classes. In late ’68 or early ‘69, a girl I knew told me she was taking guitar lessons from Diddley, and invited me to go with her to one of his concerts.

At the time, Bo Diddley was one of the most famous people (see also: Rockefeller) this eighteen-year-old had ever chatted up. (A year-or-so earlier, I had been within a few feet of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, when he spoke at UCLA. However, the Emperor didn't exactly exude approachability.) My friend and I knocked on Diddley’s door, and he opened it, dressed only in his underwear. It didn’t seem to faze the young lady, so I figured I could play along. Diddley welcomed us and invited us in. Now THAT’s approachability.

We made small talk while he finished dressing and fixed himself a sandwich. Then we rode in his limousine, through an incredibly foggy night, to the concert hall. I remember being told it was in Torrance, but in that fog, it could have been anywhere on the North American continent. It was a cavernous building, with no furniture. In a previous life, it might have been a warehouse. The crowd was mostly seated on the floor, with just a few people dancing in the far corners.

We sat back stage and chatted during the opening acts. Then we went out to watch during Diddley’s set. The crowd loved every song. I loved every song. It was probably a 45 minute performance. Afterwards, we were back in his limo, and home. The young lady and I never dated again. She’d given me a peek into the world she longed to conquer, and though it was a marvelous peek, it wasn’t the world in which I wanted to live my life.

But sometimes, even today, I catch myself singing BUM-pa BUM-pa…pa-pa-pa-pa-pa BUMP. Bo Diddley may be dead, but his riff lives on.


Very interesting!

In one of my many trips between home and the hospital earlier this week, I caught snippets of NPR's tribuite to Bo Diddly.

Matthew Carroll said...
June 8, 2008 at 6:49 AM  

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