Bo Diddley, the American rhythm and blues singer who was a pivotal figure in the development of pop music, died aged 79.

Had Diddley been able to copyright the hypnotic and highly distinctive rhumba-like beat that was his musical trademark he might have been able to retire many years ago as a very wealthy man, rather than having to eke out a living in his old age, playing night-clubs, as his health deteriorated…

His first single, ‘Bo Diddley‘, backed with ‘I’m A Man’, became a number one hit on the R&B charts in 1955, leading to Diddley becoming the first black performer to appear on Ed Sullivan’s hugely influential TV showcase of new talent.

Ironically, Diddley had been told not to perform his hit, but to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ‘Sixteen Tons’ instead. But Diddley went ahead and played his own song. ‘Ed Sullivan said that I was one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him’, Diddley would reflect later. ‘Said that I wouldn’t last six months’.

Simply by sticking with what he knew and did best, Diddley never went out of fashion. Over the years he performed as an opening act for the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and the Clash.

He will be missed.

Thanks, K B

  1. Mister Mustard says:

    Very sad. I remember dancing with my junior high school girl friend to his music at the Friday night dances. Vita brevis.

  2. Mister Ketchup says:

    #1 – So, you’re almost as old as dirt.

  3. ECA says:

    good nite Bo..

  4. Pete says:

    can almost say that Rock ‘n Roll started with Bo.
    everyone one else copied his sound. One of the greats…

  5. Machine Knight says:

    My first name is Bo, got called Bo Diddly alot.

    Grateful I did because it’s great music, a shame more people my age haven’t heard of him.

  6. snharden says:

    Seen Bo in a bar in Connecticut in 1987. Damn good show. Its to bad we lost another one. Not many of these old guys left. RIP Bo.

  7. gregallen says:

    I saw him about ten years ago and he showed up very late and very drunk.

    Even so, he was fantastic.

  8. SJP says:

    Ed Sullivan must have been one of the biggest pricks in the business.

  9. gregallen says:

    That is a fantastic story about Sullivan.

    It’s one more reason to love Bo Diddley. I like Nina Samone for similar reasons… there was a black woman who didn’t bow to the powers of the music industry.

  10. Mister Mustard says:

    >>#1 – So, you’re almost as old as dirt.

    Pretty much. Although I prefer to think of myself as “classic”.

  11. Mr. Gawd Almighty says:

    #4, Pete,

    can almost say that Rock ‘n Roll started with Bo. everyone one else copied his sound.

    You don’t know much about the history of music, do you?

    Bo Diddly was not a great force in either Rock & Roll or Blues. He was a good guitarist and singer but not great. There are literally hundreds of artists similar to Diddly in influence. They had some minor, or occasionally a big hit or two and played that same success for the next 20 years. Some for much longer. Success for them means selling out a 2,000 seat hall.

    Yes he will be missed. In the general scheme of life though, his mark is not that big. BUT, thanks for the memories.

  12. Cap'nKangaroo says:

    i suspect that the percentage of musicians who know of the “Bo Diddley beat” is very, very high. it well may be universally known outside of classical. the number of performers who have used his namesake beat is exceptionally large and the scope of performers who have covered his songs is equally impressive. in my opinion, he helped shape rock ‘n roll. the fact that it never made him rich does not lessen his influence. and i believe that even though he is dead, that influence will continue thru future generations of artists. in remembrence, i’m going to listen to some of the covers in my itunes: “Bo Diddley” Bob Seger, “I’m a Man” The Who, and “Who Do You Love” George Thorogood come to mind.

  13. floyd says:

    Years ago, Bo Diddley was a deputy sheriff in Valencia County, NM. Then he got rediscovered and went on tour.

  14. gregallen says:

    >> Mr. Gawd Almighty said,
    >> You don’t know much about the history of music, do you?
    >> There are literally hundreds of artists similar to Diddly in influence.

    Hundreds? I’m no big expert in musical history but I have to doubt you on that number.

    I did a quick google:

    Here is top 100

    1. Elvis Presley
    2. The Beatles
    3. Chuck Berry
    4. James Brown
    5. Bob Dylan
    6. Buddy Holly
    7. Jimi Hendrix
    8. Ray Charles
    9. The Beach Boys
    10. Little Richard
    11. Aretha Franklin
    12. Led Zeppelin
    13. Sam Cooke
    14. Stevie Wonder
    15. Pink Floyd
    16. Clyde McPhatter
    17. Bill Haley & The Comets
    18. Fats Domino
    19. The Velvet Underground
    20. Bo Diddley
    21. The Rolling Stones
    22. The Who
    23. Johnny Otis
    24. Black Sabbath ….

    Top twenty!

    He was also the thirteens inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    I’m not saying he was the all-time great but HUNDREDS as influential? I doubt it.

  15. Mr. Catshit says:

    #12, Cap’n

    i’m going to listen to some of the covers in my itunes

    Why not listen to the original? BTW, I’m a Man is a Willy Dixon tune. Recorded by many artists, it became a Blues standard after Muddy Waters made it a hit.

  16. Mr. Catshit says:

    #14, Greg,

    One of these days I plan on creating a list of great procrastinators. I think I’ll start it tomorrow.

    The problem with lists is no one ever agrees on them. Take your list.

    Elvis or the Beatles for #1. Although Elvis can’t be underestimated, especially by the knuckle draggers and mouth breathers, I think the Beatles had a greater influence on music during both phases of the band’s existence. Elvis was (and still is) popular, very few followed his singing style though. Many bands followed the Beatles format. The only ones doing covers of Presley are country bar bands.

    Chuck Berry had more influence on R&R than Pink Floyd? Berry couldn’t even read music for cripes sake !!! He could play a few chords and a bit of lead punctuated with feedback. He alienated nearly every band and promoter he worked with. An early inspirational guitar player? Try Jimmy Hendrix or Muddy Waters, both who played the Scrapper Blackwell style that Berry picked up.

    James Brown ??? Great act, great voice, great dancer, but whom did he influence? The Mayor of Boston?

    Clive McPhatter ??? A greater influence than the Rolling Stones?

    Black Sabbath at #24 ??? Ya, right. They had more of an influence than the Yardbirds. Ritchie Blackmore sure is a household name.

    Patty Smith a bigger influence than The Band? The Stooges more influential than Van Halen or Frank Zappa?

    Link Wray more important than The Doors or Queen? (Who is Link Wray?)

    What about Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Cocker and even the Kingston Trio for their influence. Long chapters could be written of each. But Diddley?

    Lynyrd Skynyrd is #94, Rush is #98, Elton John is #109, John Mayall is#110, CCR is #112, Moody Blues is #119, and Chicago is #120? Guess who didn’t even make the list. Someone influenced by Bo Diddley; ZZ Top !!!

    Who ever compiled this list wasn’t trying to be very accurate.


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