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10 Songs That Use the “Bo Diddley Beat”

It’s a rhythm that flows through a lot of rock music. It’s that bum, bum, bum…ba, bum you’ve heard over and over, intertwining some of your favorite songs, maybe without ever realizing you were listening to the Bo Diddley beat.

VIDEOS BY AMERICAN SONGWRITER Named the Bo Diddley beat for the blues icon who popularized it, the syncopated rhythm first appeared in his eponymous tune “Bo Diddley,” and then throughout much of his later works. Since the beat came to be, Diddley devotees have fashioned the sound to their own music. Here are just 10 of the hundreds of songs that make use of the Bo Diddley beat.

1. “Not Fade Away” – Buddy Holly & The Crickets

A great example of the beat can be found in Buddy Holly & The Crickets’ iconic ditty “Not Fade Away.” From start to finish, the song carries the foot-tapping pattern throughout.

2. “I Want Candy” – The Strangeloves

The Strangeloves’ “I Want Candy” is a bigger, more explosive example of the sound. Several instruments come together to form a layered effect over the beat.

3. “Panic in Detroit” – David Bowie

A slowed-down, gritted-up version of the sound can be heard in David Bowie’s “Panic in Detroit.” The usually upbeat, jarring effect is now subdued in the song, making for a darker arrangement than most Diddley-inspired tunes.

4. “Faith” – George Michael

Erupting from the song’s slow-building organ opener, the Diddley beat comes out swinging in George Michael’s “Faith.” Crisply strummed and unmistakable, the rhythm carries the song until its close.

5. “Magic Bus” – The Who

Not as apparent as in the aforementioned “Faith,” the Diddley beat gets a little bogged down in The Who’s “Magic Bus,” but is present as the foundation of the song.

6. “American Girl” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

In Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ racing “American Girl,” the beat gets buried under the rock arrangement but helps to guide the song from beginning to end.

7. “Desire” – U2

A clear example of the Bo Diddley beat is U2’s “Desire.” Unmistakable as in George Michael’s “Faith,” the rhythm comes out crisp and steady as the base sound of the rock tune.

8. “Please Go Home” – The Rolling Stones

Longtime Diddley disciples, The Rolling Stones have always been purveyors of that classic blues-rock sound. Their song “Please Go Home” is a shining display of their hero’s trademark beat. 9. “Billy Bones and the White Bird” – Elton John

Elton John pairs Diddley’s rhythm with his glam rock sensibilities in “Billy Bones and the White Bird.” Thundering underneath John’s glistening keys and stunning vocals, the beat is as distinct as ever.

10. “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” – KT Tunstall

Almost disguised in a flurry of sheepish drum hits and vicious strums, KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” is, no doubt, built upon the Bo Diddley beat.

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