Bo Diddley performing at B.B. King's Blues Club, New York, in 2006

Legendary Guitarist Bo Diddley Dies at 79

June 02, 2008 05:46 PM
by Cara McDonough
Diddley, known as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll, died of heart failure Monday at his home in Archer, Fla.

30-Second Summary

Diddley, born Ellas Bates, was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat, writes the Associated Press.

Other honors included having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, receiving a lifetime achievement award at the 1999 Grammys and performing for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

He was a pioneer of electric guitar playing, inventing his own tremolo effect and was also well known for popularizing “one of the foundational rhythms of rock and roll,” according to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, called the “Bo Diddley beat.” The African-based 5/4 rhythm pattern, which Diddley used in his namesake song, “Bo Diddley,” was picked up by many musicians and has been a recurring theme in rock music through the years.

Diddley felt, however, that his standing as “father of rock n’ roll was never properly acknowledged,” writes the New York Times. “I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob,” Diddley told the newspaper in 2003.

Diddley said he acquired his name while growing up in Chicago. The unique moniker served the musician—and advertising gurus—well in 1989, when he participated in the “Bo Knows” ad campaign for Nike.

Although Diddley’s health deteriorated in recent months, he kept up a busy schedule into his late seventies. “I work a lot,” Diddley said in an interview two years ago. “Seventy-seven ain’t nothin’ but a number.”

Headline Links: Legendary musician Bo Diddley dies in Florida

Background: Diddley’s far-reaching influence

Audio & Video: Diddley’s songs and the ‘Bo Knows’ campaign


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