Bo Diddley Beat
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Bo Diddley Beat
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

"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.[] 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

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 2012.
  2. ^ "Bo Diddley". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2008.
  3. ^ "Bo Diddley". Rolling Stone. 2001. Retrieved 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 2015.
  7. ^ Strauss, Neil (August 25, 2005). "The Indestructible Beat of Bo Diddley". Retrieved 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 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 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 2014 – via Philip Tagg.
  14. ^ Rosen, Steven (March 16, 2011). "Behind The Song: "Not Fade Away"". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Dean, Bill (June 2, 2008). "Rock pioneer Bo Diddley dies". Retrieved 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 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 2017.
  18. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Rolling Stones: Flowers - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018.
  19. ^ Greenwald, Matthew. "Jefferson Airplane: She Has Funny Cars - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ Barton, Geoff (September 24, 2016). "The Story Behind The Song: Ace Frehley's New York Groove - Classic Rock". Retrieved 2016.
  21. ^ a b Harris, John (2010). Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll: The Ultimate Guide to the Music, the Myths and the Madness. Hachette. p. 149. ISBN 0748114866. Retrieved 2012.
  22. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Allman Brothers Band: "Where It All Begins" - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017.
  23. ^ "Bo Diddley Beat - Television Tropes & Idioms". Retrieved 2013.
  24. ^ "Bo Diddley Beat - Television Tropes & Idioms". Retrieved 2013.
  25. ^ Jack, Malcolm (2014-02-13). "Ezra Furman - review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved .

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