In his long and illustrious career, the late Ellas McDaniel portrayed his alter ego Bo Diddley as many things – a lover, a gunslinger, crazy, even a lumberjack would you believe (and as this is Bo we’re talking about, you would…)
One thing that Bo seldom if ever proclaimed himself to be is ‘A Songwriter”. But over a period of 10 years, Bo crafted some of the most memorable songs of the rock ‘n’ roll and R & B era, including numerous Hall Of Fame perennials which many will be unaware are his songs. For instance, there can be few on this planet who’ve never heard at least one version of “Love Is Strange” – it was featured in ‘Dirty Dancing’, one of the most popular and biggest grossing films of all time, for goodness sake! How many of the thousands of young people who own that soundtrack album also know that the same man who wrote it also wrote “Mona” a 1990s UK chart topper for Craig McLachlan, and “No No No”, a Top 10 hit in 1993 for reggae artist Dawn Penn (both songs appear here, in other versions, under their real titles ‘I Need You Baby’ and ‘She’s Fine, She’s Mine’ respectively…). Not many, I’ll wager.
Bo is so well known and loved as an R & B legend that his songwriting skills tend to get overlooked in comparison with his fabulous recordings. He may be seen by some as a left field entry in Ace’s ongoing ‘Songwriter Series’, but once the CD popped into the player, it won’t take but a few minutes (as his Chess colleague Chuck Berry once wrote) to realise that he’s here on merit, and not just because everyone at Ace loves Bo Diddley.
Of course, anyone who lived through the R&B and British Beat boom will be familiar with any number of E. McDaniel copyrights – both those Bo wrote, and those that were written for him by others. And there’s considerably more variety to Bo’s songwriting than some might initially think. OK, so he did put together more numerous variations on the ‘shave-and-a-haircut, six-bits’ rhythm. But Bo’s catalogue of compositions also embraces doo-wop (‘I’m Sorry’), teen pop (‘Love Is Strange’, ‘Mama Can I Go Out’) proto-surf (‘Bo’s Bounce’), humour (‘Pills’) 12 bar blues (‘Before You Accuse Me’) straight ahead R&B (‘I Can Tell’, ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’) and so much more besides.
As well as recording his songs, many of our stellar cast of artists were major league Bo fans and, indeed, most of those who are still around continue to be. The fact that the recordings on our CD span a period of 50 years gives a strong indication of the timelessness of his work as a writer – hardly surprising when his own early recordings still sound like they were recorded yesterday.
If there’s still any shadow of doubt in your mind that Bo Diddley IS a songwriter, buy this CD immediately and let its contents rid you henceforth of such foolish supposition!
By Tony Rounce