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Bo Diddley, Architect of Rock, Dies
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Bo Diddley, Architect of Rock, Dies

(Soundbite of song "I'm A Man")

Mr. BO DIDDLEY (Musician): (Singing) Now when I was a little boy, At the age of five...


We say goodbye to one of rock's founding fathers today, Bo Diddley. He created a pioneering guitar sound that helped turn rhythm and blues into rock. In the late 1960s and early '70s, groups like the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, and Led Zeppelin claimed Diddley as an influence. A decade later, punk musicians took up his torch. The guitarist was the opening act for the Clash on its first U.S. tour.

Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates on December 30th, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. His family moved to Chicago when he was seven. There, he saw guitar greats like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. They inspired him to pick up an ax of his own.

Diddley first began performing on street corners, and by 1951, he'd lined up a regular spot at the 708 Club. He also took on the name Bo Diddley, which some say is a play on the Southern slang for the term, nothing at all.

In 1955, Diddley found his way into a recording studio and recorded the song "Bo Diddley." That song became a number one hit for Chess records. "Hey, Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love?" followed.

(Soundbite of song "Who Do You Love?")

Mr. DIDDLEY: (Singing) I walked 47 miles of barbed wire. I Used a cobra snake for a neck tie. I got a brand new house on the roadside. Made from rattlesnake hide. I got a brand new chimney made on top. Made out of a human skull. Now come on, take a little walk with me Arlene and tell me, who do you love?

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

CHIDEYA: Diddley was also known for his signature rectangular guitar. Over his lifetime, he was honored with many, many awards. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 20th on their list of 100 most influential artists of all time.

He was admitted to the hospital last May with a stroke and had a heart attack last August. He died today of heart failure at age 79 in his home in Archer, Florida.

(Soundbite of song "I'm A Man")

Mr. DIDDLEY: (Singing) Now I'm a man, Made 21, You know, baby We can have a lot of fun. I'm a man.

CHIDEYA: That's our show for today. Thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our website, To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at News & Notes was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

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