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Remembering Rock and Roll Legend Bo Diddley

NEAL CONAN, host:

An American original died today. Nobody else looked like Bo Diddley with the shades and that black hat. Nobody else played that homemade square guitar, and while everybody from Buddy Holly to Bruce Springsteen borrowed that distinctive bom bom bom bom bom bah bom bah bom bom, it will be forever known as Bo's beat. Born Ellas Bates in 1928, later known as Ellas McDaniel, Bo told any number of stories about how he got the name. Most often, he said it was a nickname he picked up as a kid on the playgrounds in Chicago.

He first hit the charts in 1955 with the song that bears his name. Chess Records released a string of hits afterwards. Bo always complained that other people made a lot more money off his records than he ever did. And while he welcomed the honors received later in life, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, "It didn't put no figures in my checkbook," as he put it. He suffered a stroke while on tour last year in Iowa, then a heart attack, and died today of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida, at the age of 79.

(Soundbite of song "Who Do You Love?")

Mr. BO DIDDLEY: (Singing) I walked 47 miles of barbed wire I used a cobra snake for a neck tie. I got a brand new house on the roadside, Made out of rattlesnake hide. I got a brand new chimney made on top, Made out of human skulls.

Now, come on, take a little walk with me, Arlene, And tell me, who do you love?

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

Tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, I'm just 22 and I ain't scared of dying.

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

I rode around the town, need a rattlesnake whip, Taking these, Arlene, you don't give me no lip.

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

Night was black and the sky was blue, Around the ally, an ice wagon flew. Good old bump and somebody screamed, You should have heard just what I seen.

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

Arlene took me by my hand She said, ooh, eeh, boy, you know I understand

Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love?

CONAN: Bo Diddley who died earlier today at the age of 79. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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