"If the music copyright laws of the United States more accurately reflected the way American vernacular music is created and disseminated, Bo Diddley would be a wealthy man today. ...you can't copyright a rhythm, a beat, a guitar sound, or a riff pattern. American copyright law follows the European tradition that a song is words, melody, and chords, and 'The Song,' defined in this narrow sense, is the thing; everything else is secondary."
The obituaries naturally listed a few songs that used the Bo Diddley beat, and all of them mentioned the Who's "Magic Bus." Consciously or not, that song brought the beat back to its Latin clave roots by using actual claves to state the rhythm (Pete Townshend was fond of using multiple percussion overdubs in his demos, so the use of claves could have been accidental/coincidental as much as it was a scholarly wink). It's also the one song of those listed that most gratuitously rips Diddley off -- the melody and phrasing are identical to his first record, "Bo Diddley" (sometimes it does matter who "wrote" a song). Not being part of the blues fetishism that was sweeping the UK at the time, the Who generally didn't engage in blatant thievery the way contemporaries like the Jeff Beck Group ("Rock My Plimsoul" = Howlin' Wolf's "Rock Me, Baby"), Led Zeppelin (too many to list, but the obvious one is "Whole Lotta Love" = Willie Dixon's "You Need Love"), and Cream (Eric Clapton's solo on "Strange Brew" is a note-for-note ripoff of a Freddie King solo) did. But surely a retroactive accounting and redistribution of the massive amounts of money generated by "Magic Bus," as well as a change in authorship, is in order.
As for the thousands of covers of Diddley songs, it's fair to say that most of the renditions of "I'm A Man" missed the point, treating it as only a sexual come-on, missing the undercurrent of anti-racist defiance, dignity, and pride. As Charles Shaar Murray wrote in his indispensable Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and the Post-War Rock 'n' Roll Revolution,
"The subtext of the white versions of the songs was, 'I'm a Man (and you're a girl, so get 'em off)'; the subtext of...Bo's was, 'I'm a man (don't ever call me a boy).'"