So another great rock’n’roller leaves the planet. One of the greatest – the man who wrote the songs that the Beatles and Rolling Stones and many, many others were inspired by. I was too young to get Chuck Berry until I heard others play his songs, and that didn’t really happen until the mid 70s, first with Status Quo playing “Bye Bye Johnny” (aka “Johnny B.Goode”) and then Dr Feelgood playing rock’n’roll like Chuck Berry played. The reality is that the first time I ever became aware of Chuck Berry was when he had a No 1 hit with the truly awful “My Ding-a-ling” in 1972. His only ever No 1. Hopefully it made him loads of money for later life.
But, of course, as I discovered more music and delved back in time, the centrality of Chuck Berry to rock’n’roll, and therefore much of the music I love, became clear. And you just have to remember how revolutionary it would have sounded to the teenagers of the late fifties, including all the great sixties bands. Just like my generation reacted to punk – except it was an even bigger step for them.
So here are a few You Tube videos to celebrate the pioneering, jiving spirit of Chuck Berry, who died yesterday, aged 90. A good innings (as we say in England).
First the man himself, from 1958, the year I was born!
And then the Rolling Stones, whose first hit was a Chuck Berry song, “Come On”.
The Beach Boys could never have made “Surfing’ USA” without Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”.
One of my favourite rock’n’roll tunes ever is Johnnie Allan’s version of “Promised Land”.
And Jimi Hendrix took “Johnny B. Goode” to its limits, as he took everything to its limits.
And Chuck Berry’s songs have never stopped being the the bedrock of so many other rocking classics. Because he IS rock’n’roll.
RIP Chuck Berry, 1926-2017. Your music will live on. It’s in everything.