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It's been nearly five decades since Bo Diddley wrote "Who Do You Love?," a rock-and-roll classic that perhaps best sums up youth's reckless disregard for mortality: "Tombstone hand and a graveyard mind/Just 22 and I don't mind dying." Diddley recently celebrated his 75th birthday; needless to say, Papa Bo may have reconsidered that particular sentiment by now. (On Thursday, March 18, the Soiled Dove will mark the occasion with cake and candles. Oh, yeah, and as an added bonus, Bo will perform.) Born Otha Ellas Bates (later known as Ellas McDaniel) on a small farm in McComb, Mississippi, the pioneering forefather of America's national music never enjoyed the commercial success of Chuck Berry, but he most definitely changed the sound and trajectory of the electric guitar. Known for his distinctively choppy, rhythmic style and irresistible bounce, Diddley channelled the energy and soul of Louis Jordan and paved the way for more effects-laden string-masters like Jimi Hendrix. Lost in the shuffle during the British Invasion, however, Bo watched bands like the Rolling Stones -- who were greatly influenced by his sound and attitude -- take the world by storm. Every band from Buddy Holly and the Crickets to the Clash to Run-D.M.C. is indebted to Diddley. In fact, if riffs were royalties, both the Strangeloves and Bow Wow Wow would still be sending him checks for ripping off "I Want Candy." Forging ageless nursery rhymes with a freight-train sound, the man with the rattlesnake whip is back -- wearing a cobra snake for a necktie, making Sunday coats from a nanny goat. From the oversized-eagle badge on his black fedora, to the trademark, square guitar, the mythical Bo even once inspired a stodgy BBC wag to declare him "so cool, he's permafrost." Have no fear: Diddley Daddy is here.
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John La Briola