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Stroke leaves Bo Diddley struggling to communicate

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Bo Diddley, hospitalized by a stroke on Sunday, was up and walking around on Thursday but still struggling to communicate, his longtime manager and friend told Reuters.

Bo Diddley performs in New York in a 2004 photo. The rock 'n' roll pioneer, hospitalized by a stroke on Sunday, was up and walking around on Thursday but still struggling to communicate, his longtime manager and friend told Reuters. REUTERS/Jeff Christensen

“I’m truly encouraged by the way he is responding,” Margo Lewis said in an interview from the hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where the 78-year-old guitarist, singer and songwriter was rushed on Sunday following a concert.

Lewis said the stroke had left Diddley with no physical disability but had affected the left side of his brain, impairing his speech and speech recognition.

She said it was too early to tell if he would be able to recover enough to perform again.

“He is having a hard time understanding us ... We’re hopeful he can come back,” Lewis said. She added that doctors hoped to have Diddley out of the intensive care unit in a couple of days.

Diddley, who has a history of hypertension and diabetes, showed signs of disorientation following a concert at Harrah’s Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was admitted to the hospital with elevated blood pressure and glucose levels.

Known for his low-slung, boxy guitar and a fuzzy, vibrating instrumental style, Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1998.

Diddley was among the pioneering black recording artists to cross the American racial divide and appeal to white audiences. Born Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi, his earliest records were contemporaneous with those of his labelmate, Chuck Berry.

While Diddley produced few chart-topping hits, his music was tremendously influential in the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s and early 1960s.

He popularized what became known as the Bo Diddley beat and is author of such rock ‘n’ roll classics as “Who Do You Love?”, “Mona,” “Road Runner” and “Before You Accuse Me.”

His unique guitar playing and rhythm influenced generations of rockers from Elvis Presley to Bon Jovi. Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi made guest appearances on his records, and Diddley played with the likes of the Clash and the Grateful Dead.

Diddley also had roles in several movies, including “Trading Places,” “Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll,” and “Blues Brothers 2000.”

Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles

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