(Originally written for Side Dishes)
And another master passes…
Sad news out of New Orleans today – Eddie Bo, the great singer, songwriter and producer/composer died today of a heart attack; he was age 79.
Born Edwin Bocage, Bo was one of New Orleans’ most prolific musicians, with over 50 singles to his credit and a vast number of productions as well. HIs career spanned over 50 years and it’s hard to imagine a more stalwart and influential musical figure out of NOLA than Bo – he’s certainly up there with the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Fats Domino, etc. (The UK’s Soul Generation has a great, visual discography of all the different labels Bo recorded for, many of them of his own creation such as Big 9, Bo-Sound and Scram.)
For my generation of Bo fans, we got into his style and sound thanks to the incredible funk sides he produced in the 1960s through early 1970s. Bo shared – in the most general sense – similarities with the sparse funk style of Allen Toussaint and the Meters since both made heavy use of the famed NOLA second line backbeat syncopation and polyrhythm. However, while the Meters’ best-known songs have a density and gravity all their own, Bo’s approach was more kinetic and lively – I always associate a subtle swing to this rhythms and especially thanks to constant collaborator James Black on drums, Bo always knew how to engineer a killer drumbreak to keep the crowd’s feet in motion.
The songs I chose barely make a dent in his massive catalog but it seems only right to begin with his best known song, “Hook and Sling,” a 1969 single that’s become commonplace enough to end up in t.v. ads. (Strangely, it’s very hard to find on CD though).
Eddie Bo: Hook and Sling Pt. 1
From 7″ (Scram, 1969)
“From This Day On” is a strikingly distinctive song – a slick, uptempo NOLA soul song with a Spanish flourish thanks to the horn and guitar. To me, it’s one of the best overall songs he ever created (and hey, Pete Rock probably agrees with me so I’m in good company).
As noted, Bo also produced for many other artists, especially female singers, including Mary Jane Hooper and Inell Young. For my money, one of the best sides in this vein was a duet he produced for himself and Inez Cheathem called “Lover and a Friend.” Not only does it feature a great exchange of scorching vocals by Bo and Cheatham but the song opens with an incredible, blistering breakbeat, courtesy Bobby Williams. This track, in particular, was picked up for release by Capitol Records and briefly had some national exposure.
Seems oddly appropriate to end with a 1963 song by Bo called “Fare Thee Well,” which he recorded for Arrow (then picked up by Chess up in Chicago). Rest in peace Eddie.
Eddie Bo: Fare Thee Well
From 7″ (Arrow, 1963)
(Thanks to Soulstrut for posting this one.)