The intro to the New York Times story says it all: "The singer and guitarist invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself."
Listening to some of his tunes today, it's striking how fresh they sound. It really must've blown minds to hear those songs in the 1950s. It's not just that those songs are the foundation of a whole new type of music, that their very existence marked the creation of "rock 'n' roll." Bo Diddley's songs are tough as nails no matter, and that would be true no matter when they were written. So give him all the props in the world as a guitarist and an innovator, but don't get caught looking past the fact that Bo Diddley was an absolutely amazing songwriter. He stretched the blues into a whole new art form and it wasn't something he accomplished with his beat and boxy guitar alone.
I can't claim to be a Bo Diddley expert - reading through the different obituaries, it's almost all new to me, and fascinating too, especially that his first band was the Langley Avenue Jive Cats - but I absolutely dig "Who Do You Love." It's one of the greatest rock songs of all time, one of those standards that is never going to get old, no matter how often it's performed.
I first heard of Bo Diddley through the Bo Jackson commercials when I was a kid, and I'm sure that's pretty common for people under 30 or so. And while that bit of pop culture is long gone, it did put a legendary rock and blues icon back in the spotlight.
His death is sad news, but hopefully it brings with it the reflection and resurgence in people's interest that accompanied the passing of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. An Oscar-winning biopic is probably already in the works. I'll be there.
Bo Diddley - Who Do You Love
Ronnie Hawkins & The Band - Who Do You Love
Townes Van Zandt - Who Do You Love
Robyn Hitchcock - Who Do You Love
North Mississippi All-Stars - Who Do You Love
Patti Smith - Who Do You Love