R.I.P. Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley passed away this morning. J. Freedom will have a full appreciation in tomorrow's paper, but the man's influence on rock 'n' roll is hard to overstate. He brought a rougher guitar sound into play and I always loved the guy because he knew that you could write a memorable song without pesky things such as chord changes. But he'll be most remembered for creating the iconic rock rhythm, which is, appropriately enough, called the "Bo Diddley beat." So in honor of Bo, enjoy some tunes that use his beat. The man must have been doing something right if everyone from George Michael to Iggy Pop wanted to rip him off.

"Bo Diddley" - Bo Diddley

"Not Fade Away" - Buddy Holly

"1969" - The Stooges

"She's the One" - Bruce Springsteen

"Desire" - U2

"Faith" - George Michael

By David Malitz |  June 2, 2008; 1:24 PM ET Appreciations
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Sweet Jesus, how many songs can you think about right now that uses Diddleyan Riffs? Everybody from the Allman Brothers to U2, and maybe some VWXYZ band/singer/guitarist I can't think of should tip their hat to this Sweet Genius of a Man.

Forget about the copiers, though. Bo Diddley's music made you want to be alive through all of whatever you're going through. Put a skip and a hop to your creative depression, make you laugh out loud when you're still pretty low.

Everybody gotta go sometime, but still I'm a big sad face today.

Posted by: Meepo | June 2, 2008 2:43 PM

...and let's not forget the famous commercial:


"Bo...you don't know Diddley."

Posted by: SportzNut21 | June 2, 2008 2:48 PM

Glad to see this tribute to Bo Diddley, an American master, in my former paper.

Another group that took a lot from him was Quicksiler Messenger Service, whose "Happy Trails" album is one long Diddley homage, and the best record they ever made.

Posted by: Tim Page | June 2, 2008 2:57 PM

No offence, but Richard Harrington should write the appreciation. I know he was one of the Staffers who was bought out by the Post, but no one among the Post Staff music writers have the braeth or depth of his knowledge of the music scene, especially here in Washington where Mr. Bates lived for several years. Perhaps someone will contact Bobby Parker who was in Bo's band when Bo played the Ed Sullivan show.

Posted by: Novaron | June 2, 2008 3:03 PM

A very sad day for rock and roll as well as blues. They just got a frontman for a great gig in the sky.

Posted by: PC | June 2, 2008 3:16 PM

I saw Bo play a gig in a small club in New jersey in the mid '80's -- an absolutely amazing performance before fewer than 100 people -- he had everyone on their feet dancing and hollering -- the world has lost a great entertainer . . . .

Posted by: tom | June 2, 2008 3:30 PM

To paraphrase the Doors "Back Door Man"

We eat our dinner, Eat our pork and beans
Diddley eat more chicken, Than any man ever seen

The world lost some serious cool today............

Posted by: Les Izzmore | June 2, 2008 3:31 PM

How about giving Bo Diddley better play on the washingtonpost.com home page? Look at nytimes.com. They've got a huge picture and three big links. Post.com took Bo way down on the page less than three hours after the news.

Posted by: Pedro | June 2, 2008 3:49 PM

I can't even estimate the number of times I played "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover". That 45 changed my musical life, and NO ONE has ever duplicated Bo's guitar sound and momentum on that track. If you think you play rock guitar, shut up, cop some humility, drop to your knees, and point a moment of tribute to God for letting us borrow the amazing Bo Diddley. Keith Richard and George Thorogood, get up off your money and at least pay for the man's funeral. You owe him way more than that and you know it.

Posted by: Max Maxwell | June 2, 2008 3:51 PM

I "met" Bo Diddley in 1980. My private high school in St. Cloud, Minnesota had a fund raiser each year: "Rock Around the Clock" and that year Bo Diddley headlined the show. As an 18-year old music afficianado, I was mesmerized wathing Bo rock "Lucille" -- his famous guitar. After the show I saw him walking in a corridor of the arena with his people and I called out "May I have your autograph?" He replied gruffly, "No!"

Ahh, my all-too-brief brush with greatness.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 3:52 PM

Just heard the news. With tears streaming down my face, I mourn the loss of the man who put the rock in rock and roll. Throughout the years, I've been lucky enough to have seen and partied with Bo everywhere from New York City to Durango, Colorado to here in Southeastern Arizona. Well, Bo, I guess you've put your suitcase down for good. May you live on through your music and through the memories of the many folks around the world who love you.

In peace and love,

Caldonia (AKA Patricia Donnelly)

Posted by: Patricia Donnelly | June 2, 2008 3:52 PM

The Stooges! Ha. RIP Bo Diddley. I always though of him as that henpecked guy in the movie "The Rutles" who claimed he taught the Beatles and the Stones everything they know.

Posted by: johng1 | June 2, 2008 3:56 PM

I have a 45 recorded by "The Snakes" called
"Pay Bo Diddley"... It is GREAT. To honor what Bo stood for I will NOT put it on the internet. Intellectual property rights are everything in the creative world. This man should have been a billionaire.


Posted by: B.L.Lindstrom | June 2, 2008 4:09 PM

Another Titan of Rock n' Roll leaves the stage. Thanks, Bo. Rock music would have been a emptier creature without you.

Posted by: Tom Roedel | June 2, 2008 4:10 PM

Of the, I can't remember how many, shows I have seen in my rock lifetime the Clash/Bo Diddley, 'Give'em Enough Rope Tour' which stopped at DC's now defunct Ontario Theatre in Feb. of 1979 will always be remembered as one of the highlights. The Clash were well aware of who they owed some debt to when it came to guitar riffs and they were playing with him that night. I remember that the sound might not have been the best but the musical legacy vibes made it all great. Funny how today when the most recent Rolling Stone got delivered with their '100 greatest guitar songs of all time' issue there was not one Bo Diddley sung song in the bunch. Yes, they had Quicksilver's cover of 'Mona' listed but nothing from the man himself. Don't tell me that 'Who Do You Love' can't at a bare minimum replace 'Gravity' by John Mayer at #84 to name but one. Bo and his unique guitar and sound will be missed.

Posted by: GSM | June 2, 2008 4:33 PM

Um, Lucille was BB King's guitar.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 4:48 PM

Um, who said anything about Lucille.
check it out.

Posted by: GSM | June 2, 2008 5:08 PM

"Um, who said anything about Lucille."
The anonymous poster at 3:52.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 5:12 PM

I actually was at a show where the Snakes (who I think were originally the Kingsnakes but then changed their name; awesome, awesome Nashville-based blues band) opened for Bo and closed their set with "Pay Bo Diddly." The shame of it was that the show was ear-splittingly loud and Bo kinda phoned it in.

Posted by: 23112 | June 2, 2008 5:18 PM

Bo played a free concert at the University of Florida bandshell in 1989, and it was my introduction to the blues and to the magic of live performance. It changed the way I appreciate music. Farewell!

Posted by: snowjack | June 2, 2008 5:33 PM

Didn't know about this until i jumped the gun on Lucille (sorry about that), but Bo's guitar also had a name, Big B. Who knew?

Posted by: GSM | June 2, 2008 5:34 PM

Saw David Lindley do "Pay Bo Diddley", but not the man himself.

As far as songs with the beat, what about "Who Do You Love"?

Posted by: kdt | June 2, 2008 6:15 PM

The guy not only pioneered rock music and style, but his lyrics also were 50 years ahead of their time:

"I walked 47 miles of barbed wire,
Used a cobra snake for a neck tie.
Got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made out of rattlesnake hide.
I got a brand new chimney made on top,
Made out of human skulls.
Now come on darling let's take a little walk, tell me,
Who do you love,"

Posted by: htj | June 2, 2008 6:19 PM

I saw Bo at the Chicago Blues Fest in the 1980s and most recently at the Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland in 2006. Bo was in very poor health at that time and he only managed to play a 5-song set with lots of dialogue between selections. But for a brief time, he was able to summon enough strength to play "Bo Diddley" and "I'm a Man" with swagger and authority. That alone was worth the trip. I feel privileged to have sat in the front row at the feet of an aging master and give him some adulation when he clearly needed it. Thanks for the memories and the music Bo. If there's a rock n' roll heaven, I hope you'll finally get paid what you're owed.

" It's time to set the record straight,
To tell the truth before it's too late.
So so I've been told,
Bo Diddley put the rock in rock n' roll"

- Bo Diddley

Posted by: Ragamuffin Jim | June 2, 2008 6:22 PM

I first saw Bo Diddley at the long-gone Ontario Theater along with the D.Ceats and of course The Clash on February 15, 1979. There was a foot of snow on the ground from the famed Valentine's Day blizzard the night before (when I saw an equally epic set by Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band at Columbia Station -- just saw Billy in McKeesport PA two months ago and he's doing great).

Bo mentioned during the show that he had lived on Rhode Island Ave NE in the 1950s. I saw him again in Portland OR later in the 1980s and asked him about that, because when I was a preschooler my family lived in the Brentwood Village apartments at 13th & Rhode Island before moving to a home in Brookland. It turns out Bo moved to DC in 1959 and lived at 2614 Rhode Island NE.

What I didn't know until Richard Harrington's article on Bo in the Post in November 2006 was that he recorded his 'Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger' album in a basement studio there. That record is timeless and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

By the way, Richard was my boss in 1979 at the Unicorn Times, and yes, he should be the one to write a full piece on Bo Diddley for the Washington Post.

Bo Diddley straddled the lines between generations, between parts of the country, between musical styles, and followed his own course no matter what. While boastful, he had a right to do so as a rock'n'roll innovator, a great guitar player and singer and performer who kept the faith when the spotlight moved on to other many lesser talents. And he had a wicked sense of humor that still shows through in the all-too-serious business of music.

"Lookee here!"
"What's that?"
"Where you from?"
"South America."
"What's that?"
"South America."
"You don't look like no South American to me."
"I'm still from South America."
"Yeah, what part?"
"South Texas!"

Posted by: Fred Heutte | June 2, 2008 9:26 PM

Nice remembrance Fred. I remember a couple times seeing Bo in DC in the 90s, including the Barbecue Battle when it was held at Georgetown Harbour and he always recalled DC and the Howard Theater. One would not have known he lived in DC from reading the appreciation in today's paper (or at least what is on th net). Is the Post too cheap to have someone contact Bobby Parker who was with Bo on the Ed Sullivan Theater. I am watching Channel 9 story on Bo that showed the Rhode Island address that he lived in and where he had his studio or he touched Marvin Gaye, among others. One should note that Bo's former bass player, Jesse James Johnson, passed away a little over a year ago. Some will remember the band Jesse James & the Raiders. The Post did not note his death, which increasingly is tyopical for this increasingly pathetic paper.

Posted by: Novaron | June 3, 2008 6:00 AM

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