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.
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“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.’”