Bo Diddley

I'm a Man

Song Review by

Almost as famous as the opening four notes from TV's Dragnet, the opening four-note riff from Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" is certainly the most recognizable blues lick in the world. Adapted from the stop-time figure utilized in Muddy Waters' recording of Willie Dixon's "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," Diddley simply dispensed with the regular blues progression and just kept repeating the four-note riff over and over, creating a trance-inducing piece of music and male bragadaccio in the bargain. Because the tune was so simple, it was also easily imitated, spinning off numerous cover versions and tunes based around the same riff. Certainly one of the most spirited covers was by the Yardbirds, complete with double-time rave-up guitar solo courtesy of Jeff Beck, which inspired several other covers of that arrangement alone by various garage bands. Diddley himself would recycle the riff on several follow-ups like "I'm Bad," "500% More Man," "Oh Yeah," and "Shut Up, Woman." Even stranger was Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy," loosely based on Diddley's tune with added verses, Waters recording the tune in answer to Bo using his riff from "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," art imitating life imitating art. But the original is still the champ, speaking to every macho-infested romantic notion most people have about the blues.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bo Diddley [1958] 1958 Spectrum Records 2:45
No Image 1972
Original Soundtrack
Bell 2:22
No Image 1981 Chess
No Image 1983 Chess
Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley 1986 Chess 2:41
The Blues, Vol. 2 [Chess/MCA] 1987
Various Artists
Chess 2:46
The Chess Box 1990 Chess 2:55
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Best of Bo Diddley [JCI] 1990 JCI Associated Labels 2:47
The EP Collection 1991 See For Miles Records 2:59
Blues Masters, Vol. 2: Postwar Chicago Blues 1992
Various Artists
Rhino 2:47
Blues Masters, Vol. 6: Blues Originals 1993
Various Artists
Rhino 3:03
Bo's Blues 1993 Ace 3:00
Blues Masters, Vols. 1-5 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 2:47
Led Zeppelin's Sources of Inspiration 1995
Various Artists
Blues Classics [MCA] 1996
Various Artists
MCA 3:01
Guitar Legends 1997 Universal Special Products 3:00
His Best 1997 Chess 3:02
The Chess Blues-Rock Songbook: The Classic Originals 1997
Various Artists
MCA / Chess 3:03
Chess Blues Classics: 1947-1956 1997
Various Artists
Chess 3:02
Story of Blues, Vol. 1: Originals 1998
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 2:40
No Image 1999
Original Television Soundtrack
Playtone Records / Sony Music Distribution 2:44
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bo Diddley 2000 MCA 3:02
The Universal Masters Collection 2005 Universal Distribution / IMS / MCA 3:01
Mojo Chess Originals 2005
Various Artists
Chess 3:01
Blues: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 3:01
20th Century Masters: Best of Blues, Vol. 2 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:02
The Story of Bo Diddley: The Very Best of Bo Diddley 2006 Universal International 2:59
Rock N' Roll Legends 2008 Chess 3:01
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Decca / Universal Distribution 2:58
A Complete Introduction to Chess 2010
Various Artists
Universal / Universal Distribution 3:00
No Image 2011
Various Artists
Universal 2:58
Blues Gold [Universal]
Various Artists
Universal 2:46
No Image
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
No Image Must Have Records