Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Bo Diddley, 1928-2008

Few people can say they wrote a No. 1 song. Even fewer can say they popularized a rhythm. With his 1955 debut, "Bo Diddley," he did both, introducing the "hambone" beat — bum-bum-bum, bum bum — that's powered everything from Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" to U2's "Desire." Over his 50-year career, he kept on innovating, creating the baaaad-man persona and integrating female musicians into his band at a time when such a thing was unheard of. And if the critics never quite gave him his due, his fellow musicians did. "Elvis Presley ain't got no soul," Mos Def rapped. "Bo Diddley is rock 'n' roll."

Josh Tyrangiel

See pictures of the Civil Rights movement from Emmett Till to Barack Obama.