I'm a Man (Bo Diddley song)

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For the Spencer Davis Group song, see I'm a Man (The Spencer Davis Group song). For other uses, see I'm a Man (disambiguation).
"I'm a Man"
I'm a Man single cover.jpg
"I'm a Man" cover
B-side to "Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley
Released April 1955 (1955-04)[1]
Recorded March 2, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois[2]
Genre Rhythm and blues, rock and roll
Length 2:59
Label Checker (Cat. no. 814)
Writer Ellas McDaniel aka Bo Diddley
Producer Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Bo Diddley[2]

"I'm a Man" is a rock and roll song written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955.[3][4] A moderately slow blues with a stop-time figure, it was inspired by an earlier blues song and became a number one U.S. R&B chart hit. "I'm a Man" has been recorded by a variety of artists, including The Yardbirds who had a number seventeen pop hit in the U.S. in 1965.

Bo Diddley song[edit]

"I'm a Man" was released as the B-side of "Bo Diddley", his first single in April 1955.[5] The single became a two-sided hit and reached number 1 in the Billboard R&B chart. "I'm a Man" was inspired by Muddy Waters' 1954 song "Hoochie Coochie Man", written by Willie Dixon.[6] After Diddley's release, Waters recorded an "answer song" to "I'm a Man" in May 1955, titled "Mannish Boy",[6] a play on words on Bo Diddley's younger age as it related to the primary theme of the song.

Backing Diddley (vocals and guitar) are Billy Boy Arnold (harmonica), Otis Spann (piano), Jerome Green (maracas), Willie Dixon (double bass), and either Frank Kirkland or Clifton James (drums).[2] In a Rolling Stone magazine interview, Bo Diddley recounts that the song took a long time to record because of confusion regarding the timing of the "M...A...N" part.[7] The song is included on several of his compilation albums, including Bo Diddley (1958) and His Best (1997). He also recorded it with Muddy Waters and Little Walter for the 1967 Super Blues album.

The Yardbirds versions[edit]

"I'm a Man"
Single by The Yardbirds
from the album Having a Rave Up
B-side "Still I'm Sad"
Released October 6, 1965 (1965-10-06) (U.S.)
Format 7" 45 rpm

Chess Records Studios, Chicago
September 19, 1965

Columbia Records Studios, New York
September 21–22, 1965
Genre Blues rock
Length 2:37
Label Epic (Cat. no. 5-9857 (U.S.))
Writer(s) Ellas McDaniel aka Bo Diddley
Producer(s) Giorgio Gomelsky
The Yardbirds U.S. Singles chronology
"Heart Full of Soul"
(July 1965)
"I'm a Man"
(October 1965)
"Shapes of Things"
(February 1966)

English rock band The Yardbirds recorded a live version of "I'm a Man" for their first UK album Five Live Yardbirds with Eric Clapton in 1964 (later released in the U.S. on the Having a Rave Up album). In 1965 during their first American tour, The Yardbirds, with Jeff Beck recorded a studio version of "I'm a Man". Their versions feature their signature "rave-up" arrangement, when the beat shifts into double time and the instrumentation builds to a crescendo. Beck added a "scratch-picking"[8] technique to produce a percussive effect during the song's instrumental section, which "provides the climax on the studio version of "I'm a Man", perhaps the most famous Yardbirds rave-up of all".[9]

Recording took place at the Chess Studios in Chicago, with additional recording at the Columbia Studios in New York. It was released as single and later included on their 1965 Epic Records album Having a Rave Up. The Yardbirds' version (with "Still I'm Sad" as its B-side, released by Epic Records in the U.S.) peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.[10] The song was later released in the UK in 1976. Diddley praised their cover as "beautiful"[11] and it has been called "a defining moment for the band".[9]

In addition to the 1964 live version with Clapton, other live versions include those with Jeff Beck (1965 Yardbirds ...On Air, released 1991) and Jimmy Page (1968 Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page, released 1971).

Other versions[edit]

Numerous artists have recorded "I'm a Man" over the years. The Royal Guardsmen (from the 1967 album Return of the Red Baron) recorded it, as well as The Litter (1967 single and Distortions). The Who recorded the song for their debut album My Generation, though it was not included on the US version of the album. A live recording of "I'm a Man" was the B-side of Dr. Feelgood's 1975 single, "Back in the Night", and appeared on their chart-topping 1976 live album, Stupidity. Grunge band Dickless ended their short and loud live performances with the song.[12] It was also on Dickless first record single on Sub Pop Records.[13] Doug Sahm performed the song in a San Francisco nightclub scene in the 1979 film More American Graffiti. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performed the Yardbirds' arrangement of the song throughout their 2006 North American "Highway Companion" and 2012 North American tours. A version from the 2006 tour was featured on the 2009 The Live Anthology album.

In 2008, a schaffel beat version by Black Strobe was included in the film and soundtrack album for Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla. This version of the song was used also in the third season of the Norwegian reality television program Paradise Hotel and seventh season of the Danish Paradise Hotel and later again in Paradise Hotel Reunion. Also in 2008, an untitled rock variation of the song was featured in the trailer for the two-part French film, Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One. It is commonly mistaken for the version of the song performed by Black Strobe, the difference being that the words "I'm a Man" are replaced with "Highwayman" in the trailer version.


Bo Diddley's original "I'm a Man" is ranked number 369 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2012, the song along with the self-named A-side song "Bo Diddley" was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings.[14]


  1. ^ "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard: 46. April 9, 1955. Retrieved December 19, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c His Best (CD liner). Bo Diddley. United States: Chess Records/MCA Records. 1997. CHD-9373 http://aln3.albumlinernotes.com/Bo_Diddley_His_Best.html |url= missing title (help). 
  3. ^ "Bo Diddley". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  4. ^ "Bo Diddley". Rolling Stone. 2001. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 
  6. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 454. ISBN 1-55728-252-8. 
  7. ^ Loder, Kurt (February 12, 1987). "Bo Diddley: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone (Jann S. Wenner). Archived from the original on December 22, 2010. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  8. ^ Santoro, Gene (1991). Beckology (liner notes). Epic/Legacy. p. 18. E3K 48661. 
  9. ^ a b Koda, Cub (2001). Ultimate! (liner notes). Rhino Records. pp. 2, 33. R2 79825. 
  10. ^ The Yardbirds at AllMusic
  11. ^ "Show 29 - The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!: The U.S.A. is invaded by a wave of long-haired English rockers. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. 1969. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  12. ^ Phil West (Jan 19, 1996). "music Recviews: TEEN ANGELS Daddy (SubPop)". Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  13. ^ "Dickless I'm A Man". Petite Discographies. 
  14. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2011". National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. May 24, 2012. 

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