Mention Bo Diddley’s name and most everyone thinks one thing—the beat.
Bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp...
Applied to such songs as “Bo Diddley,” “Hey Bo Diddley” and “Who Do You Love,” it's perhaps the most influential musical motif since the Devil purportedly handed Robert Johnson the I-IV-V chord progression at the crossroads. It gave Diddley his rightful moniker as the Originator and his equally rightful spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, as well as other lifetime achievement honors.
It’s been a year since Bo Diddley died June 2, 2008, of heart failure at age 79 in his home in Archer, Fla., following a prolonged illness. It ended one of the most influential careers in pop music history, a 54-year run during which the man born Ellas Otha Bates helped merge blues into rock’n’roll.
Australia's Byron Bay Bluefest in 2007 marked the final performance of Diddley. The DVD release of this full performance is expected later this year.
During his career, Diddley produced a rich body of spirited, aggressive work that ran far deeper than the well-known hits. He also acquitted himself as a progressive bandleader as well as an inventor, not only of the square-shaped Gretsch (three models of which are now manufactured by Fender) but also of a variety of effects that subsequently became commonplace pedals and rack mounts.
The value of Bo Diddley’s seminal beat to the history of rock’n’roll is undeniable. “If Bo Diddley had received a dollar every time some act borrowed his distinctive beat—that bouncing ‘chank, a-chank-chank, chank, chank,’ with maracas shaking right alongside—he’d have been the richest man in rock,” wrote Tom Moon in his 2008 compendium “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die” (Workman Publishing). Moon continues: “The Rolling Stones would have had to pay up several times. Bruce Springsteen would owe for ‘She’s the One.’ Buddy Holly for ‘Not Fade Away.’ The Strangeloves’ 1965 [song] ‘I Want Candy’ was a direct copy, as was the Who’s ‘Magic Bus.’ ”