The Late Movies: The Bo Diddley Beat

Image credit: 

The Bo Diddley beat, counted out as a two-bar phrase, goes a little something like this: "One and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and, etc.," but you might know it better simply as an incessant, earth-shaking "Bomp, bomp, bomp"¦bomp, bomp" that gets pounded out through a song (often by multiple instruments) until the speakers are ready to burst into flame.

Big bad Bo's signature rhythm has been traced by musicologists to such diverse sources as church tambourines, West African drum circles and hand-clapping rhythms that accompanied slaves' work chants. Diddley has variously claimed that he heard it as an Indian chant in a cowboy movie or that he stumbled upon it while trying to learn Gene Autrey's "I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle" or Claude "Curly" Putman Jr.'s "The Green Green Grass of Home" on guitar.

Wherever the beat ultimately comes from, it's become a permanent part of rock and roll's DNA, regularly used and adapted by artists across a wide musical spectrum. For example...

Elvis Presley's "His Latest Flame"

Bruce Springsteen's "She's the One"

George Michael's "Faith"

The Police's "Deathwish"

The Stooges' "1969"

"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Party at the Leper Colony"

Smokey Robinson's "Mickey's Monkey"

Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley"

We'll end with the man himself, busting a move harder than anyone else on that stage or on this list even though its obvious that he was already an AARP member when this filmed.

More from mental_floss...

October 20, 2009 - 6:00pm
submit to reddit