Friday, July 25, 2008

Bo Makes the Smithsonian!

The Smithsonian, that is, gave the dead Bo Diddley something the magazine never gave the legendary guitarist in life: a thoughtful, entertaining essay detailing the origins of his sound and how/why Bo and his beat were so influential on rock 'n' roll.

Here's a nice bit from the piece, which appears in the August issue of the magazine: "Bo Diddley revolutionized the texture of pop music. He put the rhythm in the foreground, stripping away the rest, and customized the space with tremolo, distortion, echo and reverb ... The way he chunked on the lower strings was a primary model for what was later known as rhythm guitar. He had lots of space ot fill up with his guitar, because his reocrds had no piano and no bass. Which also meant no harmonic compilations."

As noted in a below post detailing my long-ago close encounter with Bo, I can personally attest to the fact that he occasionally liked bass in his band.

I like the following passage, too, regarding the unusual and forwarding conceptual approach represented by Bo's songwriting, and the direct line between Bo and the likes of Fiddy (I just like saying "Fiddy"): "No other first-generation rock 'n' roller started out by taking on a mystical persona and then singing about his adventures in the third person. By name-checking himself throughout the lyrics of his debut record, Bo Diddley established what we would now call his brand. Today this approach to marketing is routine for rappers, but Bo Diddley was there 30 years before. He was practically rapping anyway; with stream-of-consciousness rhyming over a rhythm loop."

The story was penned by Ned Sublette, author of a recent history of New Orleans.

Click here to read the full story. Oddly enough, the mag opted not to augment the piece with audio clips of Bo. Seems like a wasted opportunity, but maybe there were copyright issues or something.

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