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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

RIP Elias Bates - 1928-2008

When Elias Bates, from McComb, Mississippi, burst upon the music scene in the 1950s, he became one of the creators of a new, joyfully rebellious genre known as Rock 'n Roll. It turned pop music on its head. Bates - better known as Bo Didley - along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, inspired future generations of musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and just about every rock 'n roller who has come along since.

Bo Didley built his own guitar and invented a unique beat, based on the rhythms of African drum beats. As The Age best describes it:

Diddley's syncopated, percussive, propulsive rhythm guitar playing, backed by shuffling maracas, was inspired by an African drum beat. That rhythm helped lay rock'n'roll's foundation.

"Boom da boom da boom, boom boom. That was basically an Indian chant," is how Diddley described it in a March 2007 interview with National Public Radio.

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The driving beat of songs such as Who Do You Love, Roadrunner and Pretty Thing inspired artists from Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things, the Clash, Iggy Pop, ZZ Top, U2 and the White Stripes.

Along with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Diddley constructed a sound that crossed America's racial divide, appealing to both black and white audiences and musicians. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognised his influence in 1987, and he received a Grammy lifetime achievement award the following year. Exploitation by record companies meant he never received financial rewards commensurate with his influence.

Bo Didley, one of the music greats, died at his home in Archer, Florida, of a heart attack. He had toured the country until about a year ago. Last year, he suffered one stroke, while on tour in Iowa, followed by a heart attack a few months later. This was his second heart attack.

Although Bo Didley has left us, his music will live on for all of us who love rock 'n roll. Here is the best tribute I know - listen, enjoy, and rock out for a few more minutes and celebrate the man and his legacy.

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