June 2nd, 2008
02:42 PM ET

Bo Diddley, 1928-2008

There was something elemental about it.

The Bo Diddley Beat announced itself from the first “bump.” Coupled with the lyrics to Diddley songs - “I’m a man/I spell M-A-N,” “I walked 47 miles of barbed wire/Used a cobra snake for a necktie” - you knew you were in touch with a primal spirit, a rhythm that suggested swagger, energy, danger.

And yes, sex. (Of course, sex.)

Bo Diddley never got the recognition his contemporaries did. Chuck Berry wrote poetry about American life and joined it to his own distinctive riffs. Fats Domino had those rollicking piano triplets and that smooth voice. Buddy Holly could do rockabilly and romance. They were all mainstays in the Top Ten.

Bo Diddley? Though his early songs topped the R&B charts, his highest-charting pop hit was 1959’s “Say Man,” which peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100, according to Allmusic.com.

But Bo had the Beat.

And, thank God, he gave it to the rest of us.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Music
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