BOMP-a-bomp-bomp ... bomp-BOMP. If you've ever heard rock-n-roll - whether it was Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, U2 or anybody in between - you've heard that beat. It was the creation of Elias Otha Bates, better known to the world as Bo Diddley.
Born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago, he reportedly was inspired to start playing guitar by hearing the great bluesman John Lee Hooker and began his career as a street musician. After several years of doing nightclub gigs he released his first record, "Bo Diddley," in 1955, and it rose to the top spot on the R&B charts.
That song introduced the "Bo Diddley beat," described by Wikipedia as "a rumba-like beat similar to 'hambone,' a style used by street performers who play out the beat by slapping and patting their arms, legs, chest, and cheeks while chanting rhymes." The music scholars say Bo Diddley didn't really invent the beat - that it goes back to West Africa. But what the hell do they know.
Bo Diddley's career peaked in the 1950s and '60s, when he and his trademark square guitar appeared on TV shows and in concerts with the Everly Brothers, Little Richard, the Rolling Stones and many other rock luminaries. He related that after an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1955, Sullivan got mad at him and said "I wouldn't last six months."
Sullivan was wrong: Bo Diddley kept on performing until he suffered a severe stroke in May 2007. Countless other musicians covered his songs and adopted his innovative electric guitar techniques, including the use of tremolo and reverb.
Bo Diddley died Monday in his Florida home at age 79. "He was a wonderful, original musician," Mick Jagger said. "We will never see his like again."
Maybe not - but the beat goes on.
The Ideal Roommate
Nobody, save those few guys who never move out of their parents' basements, get through life without a roommate horror story. The Loudmouth, the Slob, the Deadbeat are all well known species in the rental world.
Then there's the stealth roommate. An entirely new species identified this past week in Japan where a woman had reportedly been living in a man's Tokyo closet undetected for more than a year. Police aren't sure how the woman was able to come and go from the house without being noticed, but she was only sniffed out when the homeowner noticed that food appeared to be missing from his refrigerator.
He called police after outfitting his house with security cameras and spotting what he believed to be a burglar. Police ultimately found the woman in a crawl space that she had outfitted with a mattress and nothing else.
No word on whether the woman will be charged. But if she is convicted, Upfront is sure that she'll make the perfect cellmate. Just make sure to keep your candy bars under lock and key.
The Sex Machine
Nearly six years after he was arrested and charged with having sex with a minor and videotaping the encounter, R Kelly is getting his day in court. A witness for the prosecution laid out what she said were the details of Kelly's sordid sex life, including his affinity for video taping his sexual exploits with the witness, who was then 18 years old and the minor female who prosecutors say would have been 14 at the time. Under questioning, the witness told the court last week that Kelly toted the sex tapes around wherever he went in a duffel bag.
"Wherever he was at, the bag would follow him," she said.
When one of the tapes went missing, she said Kelly offered her $250,000 to recover it, which she did, but not before Kelly's escapades had made headline news and caught the attention of Illinois authorities.
Kelly has a long list of personal and legal problems related to his sex life, including facing child pornography charges in Florida and getting sued by one of his former video dancers who said Kelly illegally taped them having sex and distributed the tape without her permission.
Kelly burst onto the hip hop and R&B scene in 1993 with the solo album 12 Play, which featured the singles "Bump n' Grind," "Your Body's Callin'," and "Sex Me." Upfront believes we've detected a theme here.
If Kelly does end up in the clink, Upfront suggests a prison yard rework of the James Brown classic "(Underage) Sex Machine."
The Hummer, that epitome of wretched automotive excess, may be headed for the dustbin of history, courtesy of climbing gas prices.
General Motors announced Monday that it's closing four of its truck manufacturing plants and thinking about selling its Hummer brand. "High gasoline prices are changing consumer behavior rapidly," CEO Rick Wagoner said at a press conference. "We at GM don't think this is a spike or temporary shift. We believe that it is by and large permanent."
Besides closing the truck factories and looking at ditching the Hummer, GM is adding shifts at two US plants that make higher-mileage cars. GM's board of directors also has given the go-ahead for production of two new Chevy-branded small cars and the all-electric Chevy Volt, all of which are slated to hit the market in 2010.
With no more Hummers, what's a soccer mom who needs a vehicle that gets 10 miles per gallon and weighs more than three tons to do? Maybe the Army will put some second-hand Abrams tanks on the market.