Today we mourn the death of the great Chuck Berry who is considered by many to be the true godfather of rock ‘n’ roll. He came to prominence in the mid 1950s after meeting Muddy Waters, the great blues legend suggested that he speak with Leonard Chess of Chess Records.
By the turn of the decade Chuck Berry was an established star with several hit songs and film appearances. Although it is hardly fact that he created the first rock ‘n’ roll records, he is credited by most as the man who synthesised the varying emerging musical styles and introduced a type of showmanship that became a staple of the genre.
The above video shows him doing the duck walk, a sort of one-legged hop with a guitar that he created, it has since been espoused by rock entertainers all over the world for over half a century. Chuck developed rhythm and blues into the main elements that made rock ‘n’ roll distinctive, encapsulating younger audiences with lyrics about consumerism and high school life.
He successfully utilised guitar solos and a style of showmanship that would become a hugely important influence on rock ‘n’ roll music. His songs have been covered by the biggest names in the business like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and many other musical powerhouses. John Lennon once said “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.
It’s hard to imagine a rock ‘n’ roll landscape without the work of Chuck Berry. According to Joe Lynch of The Hollywood Reported he contributed three things that no else did; an irresistible swagger, a focus on the guitar riff for the primary melodic element and an emphasis on storytelling.
While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together. It was his particular genius to graft country & western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, “Maybellene”. – Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
He was portrayed by Mos Def in the 2008 musical biopic Cadillac Records which explores the development of music from the early 40s to the late 60s. Berry is a main stay on several of Rolling Stone magazine’s “greatest of all time” lists ranking in at number 5 on its collection of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
His song Johnny B. Goode is the only rock ‘n’ roll track included on the Voyager Golden Record which was present on the Voyager spacecraft and was intended for any extraterrestrial life form or future humans who might find it.