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Connection between Urban Blues and Rock

Born in December 30, 1928 as Elias Otha Bates, Bo “Originator” Diddley is among Rock n Roll’s original and influential guitarist, singer, and songwriter that completely transformed the then unknown “jungle music,” according to the white world, into the now known Rock music. Historically, he is the only musician to have a beat named after him, which has earned the tag of “the most plagiarized rhythm of the 20th century,” from the Rolling Stone magazine (Schoifet, 2008). This is evident by the number of famous artists, both rock bands and individual blues artists that have employed this “bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp” beat in their music. They include the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, the Strangeloves, Johnny Otis, the Pretty things, and Bruce Springsteen among others(Graff, 2009).

Raised by his mother’s cousin, Bo first learnt how to play the Violin at the church but soon switched to the guitar after hearing John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen,” a 1949 hit. Bo’s muted-string, choke-neck style of rhythm guitar is attributable to his violin background. Bo’s music hits like the “Road Runner,” “Pretty thing,” and “Mona,” all covered by the Rolling Stones, fused the rhythm-and-blues and rock 'n' roll. Previous songs by early Chicago Blues pioneers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard were lacking the “beat,” which Bo managed to infuse into his songs.

Perhaps the most direct style imitation done on one of Bo’s top hits is the 1955 “Pretty Thing,” done by the British Band “The Rolling Stones.” The 1955 original “Pretty Thing” has the same chorus and funky forerunner beat with the Rolling Stones “Pretty Thing,” except that the latter’s tempo is faster than Bo Diddley’s tempo. Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts admitted that Bo Diddley’s beat “was a very popular rhythm for the Rolling Stones while they were performing in clubs.”(Schoifet, 2008).

References

Graff, G. (2009, June 02). Musicians reflect on Bo Diddley's influence. Reuters. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/03/us-diddley-idUSTRE5520IU20090603

Schoifet, M. (2008, June 02). Bo Diddley, Rock Innovator, Influence on Stones, Dies (Update1). Bloomberg. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a1UqXM69ojO0

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. (n.d.). Bo Diddley Biography. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from http://rockhall.com/: http://rockhall.com/inductees/bo-diddley/bio/

Unterberger, R. (n.d.). Bo Diddley Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from AllMusic: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/bo-diddley-mn0000055128/biography