June 2, 2008
Where Have You Gone, Bo Diddley?
Rock legend Bo Diddley has died. You can read of his passing here.
My high-school band, Little Queenie, covered Bo Diddley's song "Who Do You Love?" which is a quintessential example of his signature style: "Shave and a Haircut" rhythm; aggressive, raunchy guitar; embittered, defiant lyrics:
That lyric is emblematic of a particular strain of the blues, one that leans into the emotional navigation of a difficult life. Diddley came of age musically at a time when recording artists were routinely exploited by their labels, and so his career is as littered with bitter reflections on the industry as it is with great music: "I am owed. I've never got paid. . . . A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."
Speaking as a dude with a pencil, I offer my regrets for the bitterness that Bo Diddley carried with him. I hope for a day when we can all put our pain to rest, when our best art will be created not out of anger but out of joy.