Bo Diddley, one of the true giants of rock 'n' roll and an influence on pretty much everyone who ever mattered in the genre, died today of heart failure. He was 79. Perhaps the only guitarist ever best known for a signature beat —a syncopated 4/4 rhythm that can be heard on everything from Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" to The Who's "Magic Bus" to a number of other rock classics—Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates on December 30, 1928, in McComb, Mississippi. By 1954 he was performing and recording as Bo Diddley, perfecting a hard-driving form of R&B; on songs like "I'm A Man," "Who Do You Love," and "Roadrunner" that would become touchstones for British Invasion bands a decade later. He cut 11 albums for Chess between 1958 and 1963, a number of which are now highly collectable. In '63 he co-headlined a U.K. tour with the Everly Brothers; opening the bill were the as-yet-unheralded Rolling Stones. "Watching Bo Diddley was university for me," Keith Richards recently told Rolling Stone, referring to that tour. "Every set was 20 minutes long. When he came off, if he had two strings left on his guitar it was a fuckin' miracle."

Diddley's last recording was the aptly-titled 1997 Grammy nominated LP, A Man Amongst Men. He was inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. He had continued performing well into 2007, until he suffered a stroke in May 2007 in Council Bluffs, Iowa followed by a heart attack in August. For a taste of what made Bo Diddley so awesome watch this clip.

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