A friend of mine recently said while going through his music list on his phone “listen to this guy, listen to him. He can play the guitar just like ringing a bell”. I look at him for a second and replied “did you just quote Chuck Berry?”.
Influential, that is a term you are going to read about multiple times online. Though he had some shady events surround him over the years. We need to think of the influence this man had on our world. Much like what I said about Scotty Moore a few months back (available HERE) this man helped shape rock music. There wouldn’t be any rockabilly or anyone digging classic rockin tunes. If it wasn’t for him (its rundendent but true) the musical landscape wouldn’t be the same. I’m scared to imagine a world without his guitar playing, his showmanship, and song writing. I picture we already would have gone through an apocalypse at some point. Or it would be a world where Pat Boone is heralded as a hero. Or both. Both scenarios causes a shiver down my spine.
“Johnny B Goode” launched a thousand guitar solos. When you look back at 50s rock n roll. It is all wild. But when you put on that track its a million times more crazy. There is an energy there and you can feel that there was more to come sonically from rock music. It is pure youth. That guitar is your inner child running around the house pretending to be Tarzan and you are about to destroy your mother’s favorite window drapes (I’m using the 5-year-old me as an example).
No one could sing like him either. Though not well known for his singing abilities. You can’t deny that no one sounds like him. No one can impersonate that. No one has bothered. That is why ever Chuck Berry song out there is uniquely a Chuck Berry song. You can’t confuse one for anyone else.
This man was no one hit wonder. Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen, No Particular Place to go, etc. One anthem after another that I’m sure everyone even people my age are familiar with. You put on any “Best of” album by Mr Berry and anybody will know what song it is after a couple of bars. I’m not even sure when in the hell I heard any of his music growing up but I knew damn near every song. I assume they are etched into our psyche at birth. Thats the power of Charles Edward Anderson being an icon. Obviously I knew “Johnny B Goode” thanks go Back To The Future. Can you imagine what would happen if that song wasn’t included in that film. Imagine if McFly sung something by Pat Boone. Dreadful.
I recently had the biggest smile when me and my wife recently went on a road trip. I asked her “what do you wanna hear?”. On the list was Fats Domino, The Coasters, and Chuck Berry. That Chuck Berry Best of got a lot of play during that 8 hour drive to northern California and 8 hours back from. “My Ding a Ling” played and it was like I was hearing for the first time. I fell over dying every time it came on. On a side note, I’m pretty sure if I attempted to impersonate his duck walk, I would cramp up, fall over, and break something. Just thinking out loud.
Now is not the time to mourn his passing. He lived 90 years. His life I one to be celebrated (except for the bad stuff). More appropriately, his contribution to music should be celebrated. Everyone should pop in one of his compilations (they’re all great) right now. Put on your most expensive headphones and rock out. And totally lose your shit. I’m sure he is passing the pearly gates with a smile. Approaching a table with Elvis, John Lennon,BB King, and Ray Charles. And hoping Beethoven is there so he can let him know he wrote a song about him. We salute you sir.
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And as always, play Chuck Berry in your car.