Bo Diddley- the man who really invented rock ‘n’ roll

Rest in peace, Bo Diddley, one of the true inventors of rock ‘n’ roll, an original and ingenious guitarist and about the hardest groovin man ever to walk the earth.   

I saw Bo Diddley in about 1991 at the Madison Rib Fest- not a venue worthy of a living legend, but it was a great, great show. The swagger, the groove, the humor, the machismo- all the qualities one normally associates with Haydn were on show in a blistering set. I met him briefly afterwards- he seemed like nice guy and ready to go another fifteen rounds after a set that had exhausted the young crowd listening.   


The New York Times obit rightly mentions that Bo Diddley was, to say the least, not fairly compensated for his contributions to music history. He was one of many legendary black genius musicians whose ideas, songs and riffs were simply stolen by unscrupulous and racist managers and record company executives who repackaged his, Chuck Berry’s and Little Richard’s music behind a sanitized gang of white performers and raked in the cash while the men who created the sound that change the world were pushed into obscurity. The history of American music in the 20th century is one of white musicians and businessmen getting rich on the ideas and innovations of black musicians from Scott Joplin to Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington to Miles Davis to Bo Diddley to Jimi Hendrix. Elvis and Pat Boone should have been paying Bo royalties every day of their careers.

On my turntable now is the Super Super Blues band album with Bo, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. RIP Bo- the Bo Diddley beat goes on…. 

A masterclass in rock- Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry show all the crackers who made millions off their work how it’s done… Elvis schmelvis.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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