bo diddley: balladeer to tyrant lovers (an ode)

Peas in a heart-shaped, bloodsoaked pod, these two?

Okay, so we’re a couple days late with our response to Bo Diddley’s demise. But the National Evil has never claimed to be on top of the news. (Actually, we prefer the news to be on top; Evil has back problems.)

Truth be told, we didn’t feel compelled to comment until we read the assorted memorial pieces devoted to the Diddler. First thing we liked? That Bo wrote not one, but two songs invoking his own name: “Bo Diddley” and “Hey, Bo Diddley”. The Evil has always been enamored of the 80s band Big Country for writing a song called “In a Big Country” (from their eponymous album, to boot!); how could we fail to be impressed by Bo?

What intrigued us even more was seeing the lyrics from “Who Do You Love?” in print for the first time. Sure, we knew Bo wrote this tune, but in our consciousness it was always The Doors performing it. Therefore, the song’s bizarre, phantasmagoric lyrics seemed like nothing more than another garbled product of Jim Morrison’s mind. Our apologies, Bo.

Let’s sample those lyrics:

I got 47 miles of barbed wire
I use a cobra snake for a necktie
I got a brand new house by the roadside
Made from rattlesnake hide
I got a brand new chimney up on top
Made from a human skull
Now come on, baby, take a walk with me now
And tell me, who do you love?

This got the Evil to thinking: don’t these read like the lyrics to a song some ancient warlord or tyrant would hum to himself as he catapulted plague-ravaged corpses over the wall of a besieged city? A Tamerlane, an Attila, an Ivan the Terrible?

Or . . . given the sudden shift from “human skull” to “who do you love?” . . . the greatest killer/lover of them all: Genghis Khan.

As reported by our sister publication, the National Geographic, Genghis has an estimated 16 million male descendents in Asia. For context, that’s .5% of the entire human population. So can’t you just see him singing “Who Do You Love?” to any of his thousands of wives as he lured them into his yurt?

Perhaps, like so many of us, Bo was born into the wrong century. Perhaps we should imagine him slumped with his guitar over a sturdy Mongolian steed, composing Genghis Khan’s love ballads as the arrows sing around him . . . perhaps that is the greatest tribute we can offer dear, departed Bo.

See you on that great big steppe in the sky, Bo, drinking yak’s blood.

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