Basically, "bump... bump... bump... BA-dump." A rhythm used in blues and rock and roll music, made famous by Bo Diddley, the artist for whom it is named. He derived it from earlier rhythmic traditions, in particular Caribbean folk songs and Cuban Rumba dance music (in reflection of this influence, a lot of the songs you'll hear with this beat use maracas, and a lot of tom-toms), and the similar rhythmic device they sometimes employed known as a "clave". Songs using the Bo Diddley Beat are notable in that they usually have no chord changes, or nearly none, instead creating musical tension by modulation of the rhythm. Ironically, while Bo Diddley used the beat in a number of his songs ("Bo Diddley", "Hey Bo Diddley", and "Mona", mainly) it's not especially prevalent in his original version of "Who Do You Love?", the song most associated with it, since cover versions of the song invariably do use the beat; George Thorogood even name-drops it in his version, heard on all the "Sam Adams" beer commercials.
Here's some other songs that use it, in original or modified form:
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- Used in this commercial for Vick's DayQuil (the second half).
- And in this ad for the "Bud Light Hotel in Indianapolis", whatever the goddamn hell that is.
- A commercial for Schick Hydro Silk
- This commercial for Canada Dry ginger ale.
- Auto Zone incorporates it into their jingle in ads like This.
- This commercial for Wayfair.com.
- "Not Fade Away", by Buddy Holly and Covered Up by The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead
- "Astronomy'' by Blue Öyster Cult (listen from 2:12 on, reprised at 4:17)
- "I Want Candy", by the Strangeloves and Covered Up by Bow Wow Wow.
- "She's The One" from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (It comes in grandly around 2:11, but you can hear it in the maracas before that. Be patient, it is, after all, a Bruce Springsteen concert).
- "Mr. Brownstone" from Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses.
- "Willie and the Hand Jive" by Johnny Otis.
- "Live It Up" by Ted Nugent.
- "Margarita" by The Traveling Wilburys.
- "Faith" by George Michael, starting around 0:33.
- "Desire" from Rattle And Hum by U2
- "Get Me to the World on Time" by The Electric Prunes, at various points, mainly towards the end.
- "Party at the Leper Colony" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
- "Opening Band" by Paul and Storm
- "Golden Thing" by Throwing Muses
- "Rudie Can't Fail" from London Calling by The Clash
- "Car Jamming" from "Combat Rock", also by The Clash
- "1969" from The Stooges by The Stooges
- "Hare Krishna" by Hüsker Dü (a faster version than most).
- "Panic In Detroit" from Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
- "Golden Years" from Station to Station by David Bowie (rhythm guitar and handclaps; the other instruments keep a four-on-the-floor beat)
- "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
- "Baby Don't You Do It" by Marvin Gaye, Covered Up by The Band
- "Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka
- "Magic Bus" by The Who
- "Deathwish" from Reggatta De Blanc by The Police during the verses presents a variation: the Bo Diddley Beat is actually held perfectly by Sting's bass, while Stewart Copeland introduces a slight delay in the rhythm, playing the last kick of every measure a quarter note after Sting hits the BA-dump.
- "New York Groove" by Hello, Covered Up by Ace Frehley
- "Hey Little Girl" by Dee Clark
- "Call Me" by Go West has a fairly modified version, but it comes through a little bit on the chorus.
- "If It's Lovin' That You Want" by Rihanna
- "Mission Accomplished (Because You Gotta Have Faith)" by Todd Snider
- "Super Taranta", by Gogol Bordello, around 20 seconds in.
- "Aqualung" from Aqualung by Jethro Tull (off and on starting around 2:25)
- "Astronomy" by Blue Öyster Cult, during the intro and the choruses.
- "Pilgrim" by Arch Enemy, during the choruses.
- "Bo Diddley Is Jesus" by The Jesus and Mary Chain.
- "Mantra Slider" by The Soundtrack Of Our Lives.
- "No One to Run With" by The Allman Brothers.
- "Phat Planet" by Leftfield uses a simplified but recognisable version.
- "How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths represents a variation: the Bo Diddley Beat is played by Johnny Marr's tremolo-heavy Epic Riff against Mike Joyce's steady four-on-the-floor beat.
- "The Glenorchy Bunyip" by Augie March
- "I Couldn't Give It to You" by Hunters and Collectors
- "Baby's Going Underground" by Helium
- "Freedom", by Tyrone Wells
- "Faster" by Matt Nathanson
- "Dice Man" by The Fall
- "Sweet Dreams" by Tori Amos from Tales Of A Librarian.
- "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)" by Pam Tillis
- "Big Guitar" by Blackhawk
- The Combustible Trio gives us a Jazzier version on tracks like "Afro-Saxon."
- "Song for Chesh" by Fatboy Slim (starting at 20 seconds in).
- The second verse of "This Time" by Sawyer Brown.
- "We Don't Need No Colour Code" by Steve Taylor
- "Hole Hearted" from the remarkably bland group Extreme provides a periodic example, with the beat being used as a turnaround at the end of various phrases.
- "A Mind With A Heart Of It's Own" by Tom Petty, off of ''Full Moon Fever".
- "She Has Funny Cars" by Jefferson Airplane from Surrealistic Pillow uses it.
- "Move On Up" by Primal Scream from Screamadelica uses it.
- "Nightgown of the Sullen Moon" by They Might Be Giants.
- "Break Even" by Guided By Voices from The Grand Hour EP.
- "Don't Go Home with Your Hard On" by Leonard Cohen from Death of a Ladies Man.
- "I'm Sorry I Love You" by The Magnetic Fields from 69 Love Songs.
- "England's Finest" by Pop Will Eat Itself.
- "Born to Hand Jive" from Grease (an obvious derivative of "Willie and the Hand Jive").
- In West Side Story, the "clave" rhythm can be heard at the very beginning of "America" (Tempo di Seis).
- As does In the Heights, for the opening and eponymous song.
- Porgy and Bess has a similar rhythm going on in "Good Mornin', Sistuh!"
- "Ladies' Choice" from Hairspray.
- "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" from Little Shop of Horrors uses it at the end of each verse during the semi-rap section. ("Don't talk to me about old King Kong...")