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In modern times, with so much rock and roll come and gone, it can be easy for us to forget some of the pioneers of the genre, taking blues and folk and twisting them into something new. These artists have influenced thousands if not hundreds of thousands over the years in one way or another as one band influences and in turn, another influences another.
Some have remained cultural icons in a great way, like Elvis, and Little Richard, while others have often not been given enough recognition. Bo Diddley is one of the original rock and rollers who, in my opinion, does not get the credit he deserves as often as he should in modern times.
Although Diddley is more so labeled a Chicago blues player, his music kind of straddles across the genres of blues, rock and roll and R&B. He took the blues as a starting point, but instead of the standard 12 bar pattern, he used an instantly recognizable syncopated style, simple chord progressions or even at time single chords, and created one of the most influential styles of all time. It is distinctly stripped down but not minimal or overly sparse, with a very syncopated feel, chugging guitar, bass, piano and often times a variety of rhythm instruments. Diddley, used to refer to it as his jungle sound, jungle rhythms and freight train sound. All of these sound quite accurate as there is a very distinct rhythmic feel that would fit well with railroad sounds, but there is also something a little more wild about them, visceral and primal, with a slight world music flair at times.
He only had a few hits in the 50s and 60s, but his style was so unique and his stage presence so compelling that some of the rock world's biggest artists have cited him as a major influence. The Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, both did covers of Diddley's songs and his influence can be heard in tracks by David Bowie, the Stooges, ZZ Top, AC/DC, later groups like the White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age, and even heavy metal bands who have adopted something similar to his original chugging guitar. Bob Diddley's musical influence can be heard in all the artists to follow the bands who were some of his original fan. His style and music had a far greater impact on rock and roll than most people probably realize.
Diddley also had a huge influence on the style and look of guitars often playing some of the oddest instruments of his day, and a few that would even be considered odd by todays standards. These unique instruments include box shaped, oblong, even fur covered; certainly one of the first artists to popularize the idea of radically shaped guitars like some of the ones exist today.
These days, I believe we should take extra care to remember the influence of early rock and roll pioneer, because yesterday I heard that Bo Diddley was hospitalized after having a stroke. This brief is designed as a bit of a show of support for Bo Diddley and his family during this tough time.
UPDATE: I am happy to report that Bo Diddley's condition has improved, and that he should be able to eventually perform for his fans again.