Chuck Berry - The Father of Rock and Roll
CHUCK BERRY - The King of Rock and Roll
In 1977 the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched into space. On board was a cosmic ‘to whom it may concern’ a message that was, said President Carter , “a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music.” The music on the Golden Disc was meant to represent humankind’s highest achievements - the best of the best, the creme de la creme and so it included J.S. Bach, and Ludwig von Beethoven and the late, great Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode.
In his lifetime Chuck Berry received numerous awards. He sold countless records. He performed live over 550 times during the 62 years that he toured. Such noteworthy details and accomplishments are commonly included in the obituaries of persons of such musical and cultural significance But the most important things about Chuck Berry are practically intangible. For those of us who were rn in the 1950’s, his music is woven so tightly into the fabric of our lives that to remove it would leave a gaping hole.
Berry was a poet who joined his poetry to a new kind of music that he called Rock and Roll which struck like a bolt of lightening, taking everyone by surprise. Chuck Berry’s songs literally changed the world! Rock and Roll was here to stay! And the lyrics! He was a stellar teller of stories, his lyrics conjuring vivid scenes that any American could identify with, traveling alone cross-country by bus or train:
Right away, I bought me a through train ticket
Ridin' cross Mississippi clean
And I was on that midnight flier out of Birmingham
Smoking into New Orleans
or speeding down the highway in a hot car, outrunning the police
I put my foot in my tank and I begin to roll
Moanin' sirens, 'twas the state patrol
So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn
Bye-bye New Jersey I become airborne
Chuck Berry belongs at the very top of any ’music’s greatest’ lists. His songs comprise the background music to the soundtrack of countless American lives. He was that rarest of rare souls, a guitar player who had a great voice, who had the moves, who wrote his own music and lyrics (those lyrics!). He was Cool with a capital C. And his songs did something else. Somehow, Chuck Berry’s music embodied and represented America - the idea of America, in a way that no one had done before. His influence is legendary. He famously paved the way for artists like Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, et al. But he also paved the way for every boy or girl who, because of a Chuck Berry song, picked up a guitar and hesitantly plucked out the first chords to Maybellene or Johnny B. Goode.
Chuck Berry died on March 18, 2017. The dictionary defines immortal as: not mortal; not liable or subject to death; undying: our immortal souls. remembered or celebrated through all time: the immortal words of Lincoln. not liable to perish or decay; imperishable; everlasting. By that definition Chuck Berry will never die. As long as somewhere in the world someone is rocking to Roll Over Beethoven while rolling down a highway, Chuck Berry will live forever.
Hail Hail Rock and Roll. The King is dead. Long live the King.