Many of us learned of Chuck Berry when we heard The Beatles, Rolling Stones or other British bands record covers of his songs.
I remember asking the question: Who is that fellow Berry who wrote “Rock and roll music” or “Carol” or “Reeling and rocking”.
In 1972, I saw Chuck Berry in concert and I became a huge fan.
We learned that the great Chuck Berry died today. He was 90:
While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.
His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.
In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons.
Mr. Berry was already well past his teens when he wrote mid-1950s manifestoes like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “School Day.”
Elvis put rock on the radio but Chuck Berry invented the rock guitar and wrote the songs that every garage band played. He was awesome and his songs belong in every rock collection:
— Silvio Canto, Jr. (@SCantojr) March 19, 2017
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