I'm a Man (Bo Diddley song)

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"I'm a Man"
I'm a Man single cover.jpg
Single by Bo Diddley
A-side"Bo Diddley"
ReleasedApril 1955 (1955-04)[1]
Format10-inch 78 rpm & 7-inch 45 rpm records
RecordedChicago, March 2, 1955[2]
GenreRhythm and blues
Songwriter(s)Ellas McDaniel a.k.a. Bo Diddley
Producer(s)Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Bo Diddley

"I'm a Man" is a rhythm and blues song written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955. A moderately slow number, 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 17 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.[3] The single became a two-sided hit and reached number one in the Billboard R&B chart. "I'm a Man" was inspired by Muddy Waters' 1954 song "Hoochie Coochie Man", written by Willie Dixon.[4] After Diddley's release, Waters recorded an "answer song" to "I'm a Man" in May 1955, titled "Mannish Boy",[4] 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 Lester Davenport (harmonica), either Henry Gray or Otis Spann (piano), Jerome Green (maracas), and Frank Kirkland (drums).[5][6] 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" vocal chorus.[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"
I'm a Man - single by The Yardbirds.jpg
Single by the Yardbirds
from the album Having a Rave Up
B-side"Still I'm Sad"
ReleasedOctober 6, 1965 (1965-10-06) (U.S.)
Format7-inch 45 rpm record
  • September 19, 1965
  • September 21–22, 1965
GenreBlues rock
Songwriter(s)Ellas McDaniel a.k.a. Bo Diddley
Producer(s)Giorgio Gomelsky
The Yardbirds U.S. singles chronology
"Heart Full of Soul"
"I'm a Man"
"Shapes of Things"

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, that was later included on their second American album Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds. In 1965 during their first American tour, the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck on guitar, recorded a studio version of "I'm a Man", that is also included on Having a Rave Up. 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 critic Cub Koda notes "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 a 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.[9] The song was later released in the UK in 1976. Diddley praised their cover as "beautiful"[10] 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 live performances with the song[11] and it was their first single on Sub Pop Records in 1990.[12] 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 their 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.[13] In 2018, "I'm a Man" was inducted into the Blues Foundation Blues Hall of Fame as a "classic of blues recording".[14]


  1. ^ Billboard (April 9, 1955). "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard. 67 (15): 46. ISSN 0006-2510.
  2. ^ Schnieders, Bob (1986). Bo Diddley / Go Bo Diddley (Album notes). Bo Diddley. Chess/MCA. p. 1. CHD-5904.
  3. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  4. ^ a b Herzhaft, Gerard (1992). "I'm a Man". Encyclopedia of the Blues. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. p. 454. ISBN 1-55728-252-8.
  5. ^ Bo Diddley (Media notes). 1958.
  6. ^ The Chess Box (Media notes). 1990.
  7. ^ Loder, Kurt (February 12, 1987). "Bo Diddley: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  8. ^ Santoro, Gene (1991). Beckology (Box set booklet). Jeff Beck. Epic/Legacy. p. 18. E3K 48661.
  9. ^ a b c Koda, Cub; Russo, Gregg (2001). Ultimate! (CD booklet). The Yardbirds. Rhino Records. pp. 2, 33, 45. R2 79825.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ Phil West (January 19, 1996). "Music Reviews: Teen Angels Daddy (SubPop)". Austin Chronicle Corp. Archived from the original on May 23, 2013. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  12. ^ "Dickless I'm A Man". Petite Discographies.
  13. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2011". National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. May 24, 2012.
  14. ^ Blues Foundation (March 6, 2018). "2018 Hall of Fame Inductees: "I'm a Man" – Bo Diddley (Checker, 1955)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved March 7, 2018.