Why, the late, great Bo Diddley, of course, whether you know it or not. If simply mentioning the name of his 1957 hit (later covered by George Thoroughgood) wasn’t enough to remind you of the Bo Diddley beat — boompa boom boom, ba boom boom — perhaps this list of songs done by other artists to the same beat might do the trick:
- Not Fade Away Buddy Holly was the first of many artists to co-opt Diddley’s beat; the Rolling Stones covered this song for their first single
- I Want Candy Originally released in the ’60s by The Strangeloves, it became a hit all over again in the ’80s when covered by English New Wave group Bow Wow Wow
- Europa and the Pirate Twins ’80s synth wizard Thomas Dolby is best known for his 1983 hit “She Blinded Me With Science”; this song is its hyper-kinetic brethren from the same album, The Golden Age of Wireless
- Desire U2 wanted its Rattle and Hum project to be a tribute to American music; what better way than to record a song with the Bo Diddley beat in the legendary Sun recording studios?
Like other black rock’n’roll pioneers, Diddley waited years to see much in the way of financial compensation, but from the late ’70s onwards, the tributes, awards and pop culture references racked up. In a bomb-threat episode of the ’70s sitcom WKRP In Cincinatti , deejay Dr. Johnny Fever posed the question, “If I die, who’s gonna teach the kids about Bo Diddley?” George Thoroughgood played pool with him in the video for Thoroughgood’s hit “Bad to the Bone”; Dan Akroyd tries unsuccessfully to get more money from Diddley’s pawnbroker character in the 1983 movie Trading Places .
When the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame finally got off the ground in the ’80s, Diddley was inducted in its second year. Diddley was even featured in a Nike commercial promoting another Bo, as in Jackson, the two-sport professional athlete. And on a South Florida note, Bo Diddley also played a gig at Lake Worth’s Bamboo Room a few years ago; his passing came a couple days after the club closed its doors.
Bo Diddley may have come and gone, but his beat will live on as long as songwriters are drawn to its insistent unforgettable rhythm…