Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Bo Diddley: He Used a Cobra Snake for a Necktie, 1928-2008
Somewhere in the ever-holy Tower of Song the residents’ shuffle up the winding staircase (handrails gleaming, carved from ancient ivory) to the incessant, herky-jerky, beneath the surface, bone-shaking, perpetually hypnotic, ever-so-pure, rhythm of the Bo Diddley Beat. Bo, like Little Richard, like Chuck Berry, helped erect the sturdy bridge between the swamp of jazz, blues, country and gospel that lead to rollicking seas of rock and roll, Bo being the undeniable architect of one of rock’s bulwarks--the otherworldly hip-shaking, chunka-chunka in-yer-head cadence of rock and roll. Bo, without the fey, screaming, grandstanding, sweaty immediacy of Little Richard who probably performed his way out of the womb or the sharp and calculated story tunes mixed perfectly with the spellbinding combo of propulsive piano and radio showy guitar hooks of Chuck Berry offered up a different sort of regal showmanship. Bo stood stage center like a conductor, hips akimbo, tasty hat, square eyeglasses, boxy guitar, oozing a quiet confidence while unleashing his snaky tremolo and laying down his first person eurhythmics. While Sun Ra readily informed his audiences and collaborators that he been transported to space and thus transformed, Bo might well have been a true time-traveler, clad in his own version of a space suit, his vast array of tailsmanic guitars his means of teleportation, mixing and matching the rumbling backbeat he lifted from the train yards of Chicago with ancient African tribal chants and the rat-a-tat-tat of a western gunslingers discharge, seemingly deprived of his earthly just desserts (money and fame), but actually here with other interstellar purposes: Help create rock and roll, jumpstart the Rolling Stones, and lay down a mystical, eternal syncopation that will forever hold its sway.