The Most Bad-Ass Riff

Muddy Waters at the Houston Juneteenth Blues Fest, 1977.

Rock and roll has some killer riffs, mostly played on the electric guitar, and there is no riff more bad-ass than the da-dum-da-DUM riff from songs like Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man.”

Bo had some killer riffs in some of his songs, but the original source seems to be “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” by Muddy Waters from 1954. Written by Willie Dixon, it seems to be the first use of this motif that has shown up in blues and rock music ever since. Bo Diddley, a Chess Records label mate of Muddy Waters, cut his “I’m A Man” in 1955 and Muddy actually answered that record with his own “Mannish Boy.”

Remember Muddy singing “Mannish Boy” in The Band/Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz? That was actually Muddy’s own remake, modeled after his version on the 1977 album Hard Again. The Rolling Stones copped that same song and riff the same year, for their album Love You Live.

Many others have used the same riff, either covering the blues classics of Bo and Muddy, or doing their own originals. “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood to the very recent “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan have used this riff.

It’s lasted this long, and shows no sign of ever going away. That is because it’s bad-ass.

MP3: “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “I’m A Man” by Bo Diddley

MP3: “Mannish Boy” (live) by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

MP3: “A Night With the Jersey Devil” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

YouTube: “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan

2 Responses to “The Most Bad-Ass Riff”

  1. Reblogged this on Becoming is Superior to Being and commented:
    The riff that goeson forever! Enjoy Dylan’s laterest variation. — kenne

  2. Thanks for the great tunes. Have these on vinyl now on my computer.

    Thanks Rhod

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