Bo Diddley beat

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Bo Diddley beat takes its name from Bo Diddley and his eponymous song

The Bo Diddley beat is a syncopated musical rhythm that is widely used in rock and roll and pop music.[1][2][3] The beat is named after rhythm and blues musician Bo Diddley, who introduced and popularized the beat with his self-titled debut single.

History and composition[edit]

"Bo Diddley beat"[4]/Son clave About this soundPlay .

The Bo Diddley beat is essentially a 3-2 clave rhythm. This beat is one of the most common bell patterns found in Afro-Cuban music and can be traced as far back as sub-Saharan African music traditions.[5] But there is no documentation of a direct Cuban connection to Bo Diddley's adaptation of the clave rhythm.[6] When asked how he began to use this rhythm, Bo Diddley gave many different accounts. In a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said that he came up with the beat after listening to gospel music in church when he was twelve years old.[7]

Sublette asserts: "In the context of the time, and especially those maracas [heard on the record], 'Bo Diddley' has to be understood as a Latin-tinged record. A rejected cut recorded at the same session was titled only 'Rhumba' on the track sheets."[8] Somewhat resembling the Shave and a Haircut rhythm, Diddley came across it while trying to play Gene Autry's version of "Jingle Jangle Jingle".[9]

According to ethnomusicologists,[10] the Bo Diddley beat is similar to a folk tradition called "hambone". Hambone is a style used by street performers who play out the beat by slapping and patting their arms, legs, chest, and cheeks while chanting rhymes.[11] "Hamboning" can also be described as a form of corpophone—using one's body for percussion, excluding the voice—a technique inherent in African-American culture.[citation needed] The introduction of the neologism as a classificatory category was added to the conventional scheme of idiophone, membranophone, chordophone, aerophone, and electrophone by the American ethnomusicologist Dale A. Olsen.[12] The Bo Diddley beat is also akin to the age-old rhythmic pattern best known as "shave and a haircut, two bits". In addition, this rhythm has been linked to Yoruba drumming from West Africa.[6]

In its simplest form, the Bo Diddley beat can be counted out as either a one-bar or a two-bar phrase. The following consists of the count in a one-bar phrase: One e and ah, two e and ah, three e and ah, four e and ah. The bolded counts are the clave rhythm.

Songs using the Bo Diddley Beat[edit]

The rhythm occurs in 13 rhythm and blues songs recorded between 1944 and 1955, including two by Johnny Otis from 1948.[13] In 1952, a song with similar syncopation, "Hambone" was recorded by Red Saunders' Orchestra with the Hambone Kids. In 1944, "Rum and Coca Cola", containing the beat, was recorded by the Andrews Sisters.[4]

Later songs employing the Bo Diddley beat include:


  1. ^ Brown, Jonathan (June 3, 2008). "Bo Diddley, guitarist who inspired the Beatles and the Stones, dies aged 79". The Independent. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  2. ^ "Bo Diddley". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
  3. ^ "Bo Diddley". Rolling Stone. 2001. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Hicks, Michaël (2000). Sixties Rock, p. 36. ISBN 978-0-252-06915-4.
  5. ^ Peñalosa, David (2010: 244). The Clave Matrix; Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins. Redway, CA: Bembe Inc. ISBN 1-886502-80-3.
  6. ^ a b c d e McDonald, Sam (September 7, 2005). "CHUNKA - CHUNKA - CHUNK A - CHUNK-CHUNK". Access World News. Daily Press. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  7. ^ Strauss, Neil (August 25, 2005). "The Indestructible Beat of Bo Diddley". Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  8. ^ Sublette, Ned (2007: 83). "The Kingsmen and the Cha-cha-chá." Ed. Eric Weisbard. Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822340410
  9. ^ "Blues Reflections". April 3, 1970. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  10. ^ Sublette, Ned. "Who Do You Love? - Bo Diddley's beat changed the course of rock music. And his lyrics evoked a history that reached all the way to Africa". Access World News. Smithsonian. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
  11. ^ Roscetti, Ed (2008). Stuff! Good Drummers Should Know, p. 16. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1-4234-2848-X.
  12. ^ "Corpophone – Oxford Reference". doi:10.1093/acref/9780199743391.001.0001/acref-9780199743391-e-1568.
  13. ^ Tamlyn, Garry Neville (March 1998). The Big Beat: Origins and Development of Snare Backbeat and other Accompanimental Rhythms in Rock'n'Roll (PDF) (Thesis). University of Liverpool. p. 284. Retrieved August 4, 2014 – via Philip Tagg.
  14. ^ Rosen, Steven (March 16, 2011). "Behind The Song: "Not Fade Away"". American Songwriter. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Dean, Bill (June 2, 2008). "Rock pioneer Bo Diddley dies". Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kot, Greg (June 2, 2008). "Bo Diddley dead at 79". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ratliff, Ben (June 3, 2008). "Bo Diddley: The Beat That Will Go On". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
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  19. ^ Greenwald, Matthew. "Jefferson Airplane: She Has Funny Cars – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
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  22. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Allman Brothers Band: "Where It All Begins" – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  23. ^ "Bo Diddley Beat – Television Tropes & Idioms". Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  24. ^ "Bo Diddley Beat – Television Tropes & Idioms". Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  25. ^ Jack, Malcolm (2014-02-13). "Ezra Furman – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-15.
  26. ^ "Richard Thompson Gets Back to Basics with '13 Rivers'". PopMatters. 2018-09-13. Retrieved 2019-02-17.