Saturday, May 7, 2005

On This Day (1955): Bo Diddley charted with “I’m a Man”

I’m a Man

Bo Diddley

Writer(s): Bo Diddley (see lyrics here)

Released: April 1955

First Charted: May 7, 1955

Peak: 6 BB, 12 RB, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.8 video, 34.41 streaming

Mannish Boy

Muddy Waters

Writer(s): Bo Diddley, Mel London, Muddy Waters (see lyrics here)

Released: June 1955

First Charted: July 30, 1955

Peak: 5 RB, 51 UK, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 38.77 video, 79.28 streaming

Awards (I’m a Man):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Mannish Boy):

About the Song:

“The bold, brash blues declaration” BH “I’m a Man” was the first song recorded by Bo Diddley and it became the B-side of his debut single, the eponymous “Bo Diddley.” “I’m a Man” is “the essential beat personified,” DM “one more in that long line of pounding, hypnotic Bo benders, an unequivocal statement of fact.” DT It features “his manipulation and modernization of Delta blues imagery,” DM inspired by Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man,” WK a song written by Chess Records’ songwriter and session player Willie Dixon.

Dixon played on “Hoochie Cooche Man” and “I’m a Man.” The connections between Waters and Diddley don’t stop there, though. Lyrically, “I’m a Man” doesn’t travel “far from a couple of the country-blues standards that Waters had himself brought from Mississippi and modernized.” DM Waters “almost singlehandedly figured out how to electrify rural Mississippi Delta Blues” DM which ranks him “among the master innovators of recorded American popular music.” DM

Just months after Bo Diddley topped the R&B chart with “Bo Diddley” / “I’m a Man,” Waters put his own spin on the latter. He recorded “Mannish Boy” as an answer song to “I’m a Man.” Waters’ new title for the song was “a play on words on Bo Diddley’s younger age.” WK It was credited to Bo, Muddy, and and Mel London, a Chicago songwriter who went on to run several blues labels. The song featured Junior Wells on harmonica.

It was “a solid stop-time followup” BH to “I’m a Man” as well as his own “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Waters “picks up Bo’s basic beat, but he slows the tempo.” DM “Coming from Waters, a mature adult figure with a voice that booms like God’s, virtually the same words are far more leering and imposing. Waters isn’t kidding around; he is a man and his sexual boasts and demands aren’t fantasies, they’re real.” DM

The song was recorded as a “mostly vain attempt to peddle Muddy’s music to a white audience…Yet no matter how cold-hearted its origins, Muddy found a way to dominate the track straight through” DM and serve up something “that the rock and roll tradition should be very proud to claim.” DM Of course, Bo Diddley’s original “I’m a Man” has still left its stamp on rock music as well. Two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have recorded “I’m a Man” – the Yardbirds and The Who.


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First posted 9/7/2023.

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