Bo Diddley

Posted: June 3, 2008 in creative nonfiction, Sarah Einstein
Tags: , , , ,

Bo Diddley died today.  You probably already knew that, but it bears saying again and thinking about.

My last job in New York was at  They laid almost all of us off on the day of the Christmas party.  It was a ridiculously lavish, dot-com era sort of party in a grand hotel near Wall Street.  There was a huge buffet table and an open bar.  We’d all been told to expect a special musical guest.  We were a little surprised it wasn’t cancelled, but it had all been paid for in advance, so there you have it.

The President of was known to consider himself something of a musician.  We, newly out of work, drank too much and wondered if we could be gracious if his band turned out to be that special surprise.  I was sitting at a table of my much-younger coworkers (all of my coworkers in those days, it seems, were much younger…) when an old black man with a square quitar walked to the microphone at the front of the room.

“Oh my god!” I squealed, jumping out of my seat.  Everyone else just looked at me.  “Don’t you know who that is?” I asked, incredulous. 

“Uhm, no.  Who is it?”

“Just wait,” I said, “you’ll know as soon as he starts singing.”

He sang.  As was his wont, he started out with the song bearing his own name.  “Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring…”  I waited for some sign of recognition.  There was none.

“Oh, c’mon!” I said.  “That’s Bo Diddley!”  I probably squealed a little again.

They looked at me, every face blank.  “Who?” they asked, genuinely perplexed.

I left.  I hailed a cab and went to visit a friend who lived uptown, someone old enough to know Bo Diddley.  We shook our heads.  We clucked our tongues. 

“Can you imagine,” one of us must have said, “not knowing Bo Diddley?” 

We could not, we agreed, imagine it.

  1. inktarsia says:

    The icon with the square guitar. And where were you, when I was at a small event with Tibetan monks, and saw the Dalai Lama, but wasn’t sure if it was him?

  2. sarahemc2 says:

    You saw the Dalai Lama? That most definately trumps Bo Diddley.

  3. inktarsia says:

    Well I’m not positive. I needed you there to tell me for sure, because nothing was announced. At some point, one of our professors had been the Dalia’s PR monk or something.

  4. My husband (who will be 60 in October) and I (of undisclosed age) were watching the news with our 25-year-old daughter last night when we learned of Bo Diddley’s death. We both started singing a few lines from his songs (as we’ve always done when any musician or song is mentioned, and our kids have always rolled their eyes as we’ve done this) and then looked at our daughter, whose face was blank. She didn’t know who he was, either. I guess there are some benefits of being old!

  5. sarahemc2 says:

    Sherry, who was your professor? (I’m suddenly wondering if you took a class from Bob Thurman, in which case we need to swap stories!)

    Susan, isn’t it amazing what they don’t know… and what they do? My step-daughter listens to Van Halen. Can you imagine? What does it say about her, or the world, that she doesn’t know Bo but she knows Eddie Van Halen? Something bad, I’m sure.

  6. inktarsia says:

    Wasn’t Bob, but I’d have to think long & hard to remember who it was. He’s not on faculty any more.

  7. inktarsia says:

    For pity’s sake, Sarah. Pretty soon you’ll be bashing Boston & Kansas & Styx. What’s next, Heart? Bon Jovi? BONNIE RAITT? I caught heck from my sister-in-law when we gave my 2nd son two middle names: David and Lee. “You named your son after David Lee Roth??” Well no. But it was fun to let her think that.

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