Interviews: June 2008 Archives

Thorogood honours Bo Diddley's legacy

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Legend shaped rock and roll, rocker says
June 05, 2008 05:00

Knowing his friend was in ailing health, George Thorogood had been thinking about Bo Diddley’s death for some time.

“He was bedridden, right. You are never prepared but you know it is going to happen,” said Thorogood. “I just didn’t think that the state of his body could handle a stroke and a heart attack and be able to bounce back.”

Diddley, a rock ’n’ roll pioneer and guitar-playing inspiration, died of heart failure on Monday at the age of 79. He had been in ill health for a number of months.

“I guess I was as close to him as any person could be,” said Thorogood, who covered Diddley’s song Who Do I Love, and had the legend appear in his Bad To The Bone music video.

“We had a great relationship, let’s put it that way,” added Thorogood on a break from his current Canadian tour with The Destroyers. “We always lead with a Chuck Berry-type song to get the band loose, and we follow with a Bo Diddley song.”

Thorogood said he starts his shows this way because both artists pretty much created rock and roll with their blues backgrounds.

“As great as some lead singers are, and drums and saxes, guitars will always be the number one dude when it comes to rock and roll,” he said.

It is essential to listen to both men, added the musician, if you want to get a grasp on rock and roll and what the music is all about. They represent a lineage that stretches back to some of the best blues musicians of the last century — and continues into rock today.

“Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley got John Lennon and Keith Richards’ attention, who are the two highest profile rock musicians ever, right up there with Hendrix.”

If you don’t take the time to listen to the blues, you’ll never get a real understanding or appreciation of rock, he said.

“It is like an actor who never heard of Tennessee Williams,” he said. “Or a director who says, ‘I don’t know who Cecil B. DeMille is.’”

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According to Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, the influence that Bo Diddley’s records have had is immeasurable, but that’s not the most amazing part of his legacy. “But how heavy is it that a person has a beat named after him?” he asks. Indeed, the “Bo Diddley Beat” has left an indelible mark on the rock landscape, and according to Gibbons it will be immortal. “You can play Bo Diddley for three year olds who can’t speak and yet they start gyrating,” he says. I think we must be wired to respond to it and he just happened to tap into it and deliver it in such a masterful way. And it still works.”

George Thorogood would agree, as one of his biggest hits was a cover of Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Thorogood also counted Diddley as a friend. “When I first met him he was kind of standoffish. Once we got going we had a very wonderful relationship,” Thorogood says. “He was very moved by the fact that I was so into his music and I seemed to have a grip on it. I did a concert with him in Australia in 2005, and he played before I did. As he was coming up he stairs I said goodbye to him, he hugged me and grabbed my hand and he whispered, ‘I’m done, George. It’s yours now.’”

Buddy Guy was never close to Diddley, but he was an admirer. “I say he was one of the best guys that ever played the music,” says Guy. “I’m a very religious man and I think we all was put here for a reason. And when Bo came along and came up with that beat he was at the right time at the right place. You gotta give credit where credit is due. He is one that should never be forgotten.”

George Thorogood speaks about Diddley's impact

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Guitarist remembers his friend and influence

Jun 3, 2008
Bo Diddley news, reviews, video and tour dates
Add Bo Diddley to MyNME
George Thorogood remembered Bo Diddley, his friend and influence who died of heart failure today (June 2).

The singer/guitarist, who covered Diddley's 'Who Do You Love' and name-checks him in one of his songs, told NME.COM that he was turned on to Diddley by The Rolling Stones.

“I first heard Bo Diddley in 1966," said Thorogood. "I knew The Rolling Stones were big on this guy and I got a copy of Bo Diddley’s '16 All-Time Greatest Hits' and flipped over it, and played it constantly."

Thorogood said that he still performs his cover of 'Who Do You Love', as well as 'Ride On Josephine', which was heavily influenced by the 'Bo Diddley beat'.

"I first met him in 1979, and as years went on we got closer and closer," he said. "It’s an honour to be associated with his great music. I just had ‘Hand Jive’ on last night. It goes, ’A doctor, a lawyer and an indian chief/They all dig that Diddley beat.’ That says it all.”

Thorogood has earned respect

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Erin Harde , Special to The Leader-Post
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008

It may surprise George Thorogood fans that the b-b-b-b-bad to the bone singer does not, in fact, appreciate or condone audience members getting completely loaded at his shows.

The self-described "boogie blues master" who, with his band The Destroyers, released such hits as "I Drink Alone" and the perennial barroom favourite "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" says his catalogue has a lot more to offer than just the alcohol-infused radio favourites.

"I don't want to play for a bunch of drunks," says Thorogood.

"It's like writing a book and someone puking during the third chapter and passing out before the book is halfway done. You work for the live stage act and put songs together and want people to see the show."

Over the years, his audiences have become more respectful, particularly the younger generation.

"Every year, it gets more enjoyable because I get older, the band gets better, a lot of people in the audience get younger and look at me different," he says. "It's not just a bunch of roaring drunks just cutting loose and using me as an excuse to get drunk."

Thorogood audiences today are more diverse than 20 years ago. Young people show up with their parents and sometimes grandparents.

"I prefer people under 20 and people over 60 because once they get older, they think 'this could be it -- I'm gonna have a good time tonight.' People under 20 have yet to form an opinion about anything. It's us people in between who are (expletives)," he laughs.

Now 58, Thorogood rightly deserves a little respect. With dozens of albums to his credit, hit songs like "Gear Jammer," "Get A Haircut," "Move It On Over," and "Bad To The Bone" and former tour mates that range from the Rolling Stones to Howlin' Wolf, Thorogood has become a blues rock legend in his own right, though it's just now that Thorogood says The Destroyers are hitting their stride.

"There's much more satisfaction in it. When you're building the house, when you're almost completed, you enjoy putting the final touches on it as opposed to when you get started," he says. "Building any kind of business or any kind of career is painstaking. It has been for me. Things didn't just explode for me like an Elvis Presley. It's been an ongoing process. Some people call it a labour of love, I just call it a labour."

The work has paid off for Thorogood as he continues to see fans fighting for tickets -- the Casino Regina show sold out in less than an hour. Thorogood coyly avoids naming any tunes from the set list.

"I met Joe DiMaggio and he told me one thing. He said 'George, you only owe your fans one thing,' and I said, 'What's that?' and he said, 'Your best.' "

The best of which album or era, Thorogood won't say, but he promises not to disappoint.

"I'm a boogie blues master with a lot of energy who, with all due respect to Dennis Leary, is probably the most obnoxious man in show business, in which I have that field completely to my own," says Thorogood. "I will not disappoint in that fashion. Ever."

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