A year after his death, Bo Diddley in new spotlight

Fri May 29, 2009 5:13pm EDT
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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - Bo is gone. But his beat goes on.

It's been a year since Bo Diddley died of heart failure at age 79 in his home in Archer, Fla., after a prolonged illness. His June 2, 2008, passing ended one of the most influential careers in pop music history, a 54-year run during which the man born Ellas Otha Bates earned the rightful title of the Originator as he helped merge blues into rock 'n' roll.

On such hits as "Bo Diddley," "Hey Bo Diddley," "Say Man" and "Who Do You Love," Diddley created a staccato, second-line-style beat that became an intrinsic part of rock's foundation.

Diddley's array of inventions included his trademark, square-shaped Gretsch guitar (three models of which are now manufactured by Fender) and a variety of effects that are commonplace today.

In the wake of his passing, those who guided his career now want to ensure that Diddley's legacy remains vital and potent. Leading this effort are Margot Lewis and Faith Fusillo of Talent Source. Lewis had been Diddley's agent since the early '80s and became his manager in 1992. Fusillo stepped up at that time as Diddley's business manager. The two oversee an estate that includes four children, 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

"We want to perpetuate his legacy and make sure he gets his due in the world of popular music and popular culture," Fusillo says. "We really believe (Diddley) is an American original, just like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean. I don't think he got that due during his lifetime. So we're exploring all kinds of ways to take (Diddley) into the 21st century. He's still so well-thought-of today, we need to make sure that 50 years from now he's still considered an American icon."


Lewis and Fusillo are working with strategic partners -- primarily the New York-based publishing and marketing firm Primary Wave Music, and also Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), which owns much of Diddley's recorded catalog -- on an array of projects, including exposure for some 200 reels of unreleased and largely unheard Diddley recordings.   Continued...

<p>Legendary blues guitarist Bo Diddley performs at the 35th annual Bumbershoot Seattle Arts Festival in Seattle September 4, 2005. REUTERS/Anthony P. Bolante</p>