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Bo Diddley dies

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Old 06-02-2008, 09:39 PM
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Default Bo Diddley dies

Bo Diddley, the rhythm and blues musician whose name became synonymous with a distinctive choppy rhythm that shaped rock and roll, died today.

The 79-year-old singer and guitarist had suffered a heart attack in August, three months after having a stroke while on tour in Iowa. He died at home in Florida of heart failure.

Wearing horn-rimmed glasses, a black Stetson and playing a homemade box-shaped guitar, Diddley cut a distinctive figure among the first generation of rock and rollers. But he never achieved the fame or fortune of contemporaries such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

His first single, however, was arguably as influential as anything recorded by the pioneers of rock and roll.

Hey, Bo Diddley, a tale of rural infidelity released in 1955, introduced the "shave and a haircut, two bits rhythm" that Diddley made his own, and which was subsequently absorbed by artists from Buddy Holly to David Bowie.

The single's B-side, I'm A Man, introduced rock and roll to another element of the genre's DNA, humour. Its boastful lyrics "All you pretty women/Stand in line/I can make love to you baby/In an hour's time" were a parody of macho pride.

Almost a decade later the song gave the British group the Yardbirds a US hit.

Diddley, who was born Ellas Bates in 1928 in Mississippi, claimed that he never received due financial reward for his music. Like most musicians in the early 1950s, he was paid a flat fee for his groundbreaking recordings, and never received royalties.

"I am owed. I've never got paid," he told an interviewer in the 1990s. "A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."

Possibly because of the lack of riches, or his humble roots and religious background, Diddley survived the ups and downs of an uneven career longer than most of his contemporaries.

"When I first became famous, it really freaked me out," he once said. "I mean, it didn't seem real. I said, 'Wow, I got a hit record! Little ol' me!' I didn't know what to do with it, but then I turned around and faced it. I come from a very religious background, and I figured I was being given a chance and I wasn't about to let it slip by. Maybe that's why I'm still around and others aren't."
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