Rock and Roll legend Chuck Berry passed yesterday at the age of 90. His music shaped Rock and Roll for decades.
The Chicago bluesman, who has died aged 90, basically invented rock.
Sure, there were other contributors: Bill Haley’s northern band rock ‘n’roll; Pat Boone and his New Orleans dance blues; and Berry’s label mate at Chess Records, Bo Diddley.
But no-one else shaped the instrumental voice and lyrical attitude of rock like Chuck. His recordings were lean, modern and thrilling. In the words of pop critic Bob Stanley, “they sounded like the tail fins on Cadillacs”.
He was the first to admit he drew inspiration from days of old. “There is really nothing new under the sun,” he said in the mid-1980s tribute film Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll – citing the likes of T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian as his forebears.
What he did with those influences, though, was something else. He gave country the bite of the blues, writing defiant odes to cars and girls at a time when rock lyrics were all Tutti Frutti and A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop.
As Brian Wilson said, he wrote “all of the great songs and came up with all the rock and roll beats”.
“He laid down the law,” added Eric Clapton.
The biggest knock on Chuck Berry is he typically performed with pickup bands. As such, the quality of his live performances varied wildly – often not to the good. In this video, he does his classic “Nadine”, backed up by Kieth Richards of the Rolling Stones.
Lastly, and interview with Johnny Carson in 1987…