One of the founding fathers of rock ’n’ roll has left the building he
helped construct. Bo Diddley, aged 79, died of heart failure today at
his home in Archer, Fl where he resided for over 20 years.
With Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and Jerry
Lee Lewis, Diddley (born Ellas Otha Bates) was one of music’s
principal architects in the mid-1950s. The guitarist-singer-songwriter
scored major pop hits with “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man” in 1955 and
“Say Man” (1959) and made an almost incalculable impact on rock from
the Fifties onward. His music influenced artists working in such
disparate styles as rockabilly, British Invasion pop, surf,
psychedelic, hip-hop and punk rock.

Diddley is most often cited for his signature “Bo Diddley beat,” a
syncopated 5/4 pattern similar to the West African-derived “hambone”
rhythm or “Shave and a haircut two-bits” couplet. Over the years,
Diddley variously claimed to have adapted the beat from music he heard
in church, from trying to play the Gene Autry song “Jingle Jangle” and
from attempting to play his guitar like a drum. Whatever its origins,
the taut, rumba-like beat has powered literally hundreds of rock and
pop records, everything from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and the
Who’s “Magic Bus” to Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” George Michael’s
“Faith” and Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One.” A half dozen key
Diddley compositions have held down prized spots in the repertoire of
thousands of performing artists for decades.