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Rock Legend Bo Diddley Remembered

June 2, 2008 at 6:45 PM EDT
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Hailed as an original founder of rock 'n' roll, Bo Diddley helped define the style that was to be the medium for many musicians to come. He died on Monday, age 79.

GWEN IFILL: Musician Bo Diddley also died today. The guitarist’s career spanned more than five decades. Early on, his music caught the ear of the Chess Brothers, who owned a Chicago-based recording label.

Bo Diddley’s story was told as part of a 1995 PBS series, “Rock & Roll.” Here is an excerpt.

NARRATOR: In March 1955, the Chess’s heard a different sound, electric guitar played in a new way by an eccentric black man who called himself Bo Diddley.

BO DIDDLEY, Musician: I taught myself. I was just kind of a weird fellow with music. I wanted to do my thing; I didn’t want to do something I heard somebody else do.

I mainly played chords and stuff like that and rhythm. I’m a rhythm fanatic. I played the guitar as if I were playing drums. That’s the thing that makes my music so different. I do licks on the guitar that the drummer would do.

MUSICIAN: Bo Diddley was an original guy. He had women in his band. He had the Duchess.

MUSICIAN: Duchess. Then he had Cookie.

MUSICIAN: Then he had cookie. He had different instruments. He had an electric violin in his band. He had maracas in his band. He wasn’t afraid to experiment.

NARRATOR: Bo Diddley brought his percussive sound to an audience of millions in November 1955 on the country’s top-rated variety program, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” as primetime television was gradually beginning to acknowledge the growing popularity of black music.

His rhythms would soon become rock-and-roll main stays, propelling hits by everybody from Buddy Holly and Johnny Otis in the late ’50s, to punk and heavy metal bands of more recent decades.

GWEN IFILL: Bo Diddley was 79 years old.