Bo Diddley, a founding father of rock 'n' roll whose distinctive "shave and a haircut, two bits" rhythm and innovative guitar effects inspired legions of other musicians, died Monday after months of ill health. He was 79.
The legendary singer and performer, known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat, was an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award in 1999 at the Grammy Awards.
Howard Kramer, assistant curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, said in 2006 that Diddley's Chess recordings "stand among the best singular recordings of the 20th century."
Diddley's other major songs included, "Say Man," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," "Shave and a Haircut," "Uncle John," "Who Do You Love?" and "The Mule."
Despite his success, Diddley claimed he only received a small portion of the money he made during his career. Diddley appreciated the honors he received, "but it didn't put no figures in my checkbook... If you ain't got no money, ain't nobody calls you honey," he quipped.
The "shave and a haircut, two bits" rhythm is actually the afro-cuban clave that underlies all latin music. I think Bo was the first who brought this rhythm into the rock/r-b idiom. In fact, this rhythm is so characteristic of the things he did, that it is commonly called the Bo Diddley rhythm. It's fun to play things in this style, as music based on this rhythm (like most latin music) has tremendous excitement and momentum, and even more so when rockin' it. Bye Bo.
I once had the pleasure of playing with him in a 1978 at a concert at the La Paloma in Encinitas, CA. In addition to being one of rock's Founding Fathers he was a real gentleman. He has never received the recognition he so richly deserved. I believe he was as important to the development of rock as Chuck Berry.