Under a blazing sun, the life of rock pioneer Bo Diddley was celebrated with a four hour funeral in Gainesville, FL. While the music of Diddley was never far from the minds of the more than 500 people that were in attendance, the service celebrated Diddley as a member of the community, a figure who was well-known to the residents of north central Florida. “The last time I saw him he was carrying two bags out of the grocery store,” said Gainesville mayor Pegnenn Hanrahan, who announced to raucous applause that Gainesville’s downtown square would soon be renamed Bo Diddley Plaza.
A deeply religious man later in his life, the service was filled with testimonials and proclamations from community officials, bring-the-house-down gospel solos from members of his family — highlighted by his grandson Garry imitating Diddley’s wild stage moves — and a chills-inducing eulogy from Diddley’s pastor Marilyn V. Green.
After the service, the music of Diddley was celebrated at a concert at Gainesville’s Martin Luther King civic center. Family members joined a number of Diddley’s current and former bandmates for romps through his best known tracks with Animals founding member Eric Burdon joining for a few songs, including “Mona.”
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“The first time I met him was today,” said Burdon who flew in from California for the funeral. “But meeting his family and singing his songs, I feel like I’ve known him forever.”
Flower arrangements were sent by Tom Petty, George Thorogood and ZZ Top, among others, and an all-star tribute concert is in the works for the fall.