Rock legend Bo Diddley died this morning (June 2) of heart failure in Archer, Fla., according to his spokesperson. He was 79. Diddley suffered a stroke last spring and had a heart attack last August,

Rock legend Bo Diddley died this morning (June 2) of heart failure in Archer, Fla., according to his spokesperson. He was 79. Diddley suffered a stroke last spring and had a heart attack last August, from which he never fully recovered.

Since then, he was undergoing rehabilitation near his Florida home. A private wake will be held Friday (June 6), with a funeral service open to the public the following afternoon at 2 p.m. at Showers of Blessing Harvest Center in Gainesville, Fla. That evening, a Diddley memorial, featuring members of his touring band, will be held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Purpose Center.

Diddley's interment will be held Sunday and will be private.

Born Ellas Otha Bates McDaniel on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Miss., Diddley holds the distinction of being the only musician in history to have a specific musical beat, or rhythmic pattern, named after him. The "Bo Diddley beat" blends equal parts rock'n'roll rhythm and gospel shout in its "bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp" pattern, which became an enduring staple of popular music. His songs, a tasteful blend of blues and R&B elements, were among the earliest true rock'n'roll recordings.

Diddley was an early advocate of fuzzy, distorted guitar sounds. They perfectly complimented his frenetic songs, which played on a homemade square guitar while decked out in dark sunglasses and a black hat. Similarly, his rhythmic, boastful vocal style predated rap by several decades.

In his heyday in the '50s, Diddley recorded such seminal rock songs as "I'm a Man," "Who Do You Love?," "Mona," and "Road Runner," all of which have since become essential learning material for rock and blues bands, and have been covered by countless leading artists.

Buddy Holly borrowed Diddley's beat for his hit song "Not Fade Away," and the Rolling Stones' version of that song, with its unmistakable nod to Diddley, became the band's first major British hit single.

In 1983, he had a memorable cameo as a pawn shop clerk in the comedy "Trading Places," and in 1989, he was introduced to a new generation of fans when he appeared with sports star Bo Jackson in a humorous TV ad campaign for Nike athletic shoes.

Although Diddley toured regularly into his late 70s, his recorded output for the past 30-plus years has been sparse, save for a late '80s live album with Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

Diddley is survived by his brother, the Reverend Kenneth Haynes of Biloxi, Miss.; his children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Tammi D. McDaniel and Terri Lynn Foster; 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.


Additional reporting by Steve Graybow.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print