Bo Diddley died in his Florida home Monday at the age of 79 when his heart, from which came the songs that inspired such musicians as Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, the Smiths, the Beatles and U2, failed. He died surrounded by 35 family members after recent heart troubles, including a stroke and a heart attack in 2007, Reuters reported.

The influential singer and guitarist is known for bridging the gap between blues and modern rock with his driving “Bo Diddley” rhythm style, which he demonstrated best in numbers like “Bo Diddley,” “Who Do You Love,” “Mona,” and a gang of other tunes I hope to personally explore further. You can also recognize it in songs like George Michael’s “Faith,” the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now,” Elvis’ “His Latest Flame”, Weezer’s “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” and the Rolling Stones’ version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” among many others.

Aside from pioneering a musical style, Diddley (aka Ellas McDaniel) was the ambassador of the odd-looking rectangular guitar, as well as becoming an early talk-show rabblerowser when he pulled the old song-switch on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. Sullivan had asked him to perform the hit song “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, when Diddley took the stage with his band and banged out his own number, “Bo Diddley,” instead. Sullivan called him “one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him,” and Diddley was banned from the show.

Diddley was idolized by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (who opened for him in 1963) during their early years before their careers eventually surpassed his. In recent years Diddley was said to be disappointed with the younger generation’s black music, calling gangsta rap “rap-crap” and saying it made his blood boil.

He performed well into his later years, touring as late as 2006, which puts him at the end of an over 55-year career. I’d say that’s pretty good, and we at Cinema Blend give a silent nod of appreciation at the legacy of the first dude out there.

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