It is impossible to calculate what the world would sound like without Chuck Berry. What would music be? What would a guitar solo sound like? The enormity of it can’t really be parsed. Berry was a poet with words and sound. Take away the biggest hits, “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock & Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and you’d still have dozens of classics. His status as an innovator was established more than 60 years ago, and some of the most eloquent tributes to that are already thirty years, in the 1987 documentary Hail! Hail! Rock & Roll. They come from Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, and several others. You should watch that, as soon as possible.
The relationship between Berry and Richards in that film is especially amusing, particularly in a scene where Berry is dressing Richards down for not playing his part right. Richards looks sheepish in that scene, which is not something that probably happens a lot. Theirs was a complicated relationship, as evidenced by this clip from Conan.
Chuck Berry died today at age 90. He broke the news on his birthday this past October that he would be releasing a new album of original music in 2017 called Chuck on Dualtone Records. He’d mentioned it once or twice over the years, and I was happy to hear it was finally happening. Sad to know he won’t see its release.
My dad used to play “My Ding-a-Ling” from The Chuck Berry London Sessions for my sister and I when we were kids, and I’ve since found out it was the number one song on the Billboard Charts the day I was born, October 24, 1972.
Just listen for the words on these, and feel that rhythm. The man knew exactly how to stick a phrase, whether it was a verse or a guitar lick.
“No Particular Place To Go”
And oh yeah, he could do it with his feet, too.
“You Can’t Catch Me”
We’ll miss you, Chuck. Thanks.