Saturday, March 18, 2017

R.I.P. Chuck Berry

It’s not exactly a shock or a tragedy: Chuck Berry died at the age of 90. A life well lived. A life full of music and scandals. The embodiment of rock n’roll. 
We can debate for days about who was the first true originator of rock n’ roll. Scholars like to point to Ike Turner and his recording of Rocket 88 for Jackie Brenston in 1951. Surely this is a contender, even if it still sounds a little prehistoric. Others say it’s Elvis’ recording of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s That’s All Right Mama in 1954, and there’s also a good argument to be made for that.

But there is no controversy in stating that the first fully formed rock n’roll song, sung by the first authentic rock n’ roll singer, was Maybellene by Chuck Berry in 1954. It was the first of a string of hits that are now considered the Tablets of Stone of rock n’ roll: Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music, and Johnny Be Goode being the other three.

Whether we hear or not, whether even the artist realises it or not, EVERYTHING we listen to today owes a debt to those recordings. From Katy Perry to Mastodon, EDM and Hip-Hop: none of this could have existed without Chuck Berry and those double-stops on his Gibson ES-335.

He lived the life of a rock n’roller through and through: marred with sex scandals, arrests, various excess… And in this he was again the template for everything that was to come, but this isn’t what matters.

His real legacy comes in the shape of a simple, cool, fun 3-minute rock n’ roll song about cars, teenagers in love, movies, going out on a Friday night, and most of all not taking any botheration.

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