Transitions: Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Paying Attention:

“You know, my temperature’s risin’
And the jukebox blowing a fuse
My heart’s beatin’ rhythm
And my soul keeps on singin’ the blues
Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news…”
–from Roll Over Beethooven by Chuck Berry
Charles Edward Anderson Berry died on Saturday. He was 90 years old and he was known throughout the world as Chuck Berry. The New York Times published an excellent appreciation of Chuck Berry’s life this weekend. Written by Jon Pareles, it will provide not just the starting point, end point, and specifics of Berry’s life, but also an appreciation of why Chuck Berry was so important to music, specifically rock&roll music.
Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock&roll music. John Lennon said “if you tried to give rock & roll another name it would be Chuck Berry”. The Beatles, like the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys,  and Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan all put Berry at the top of the rock&roll food chain. Berry played with Clapton, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen.  Chuck Berry songs were frequently on their albums and live show playlists. It was Berry who put the rhythm in rock&roll,combining country and blues and R&B into one new music form,  sorted the chord structure and progressions, insisted on the driving drum and bass beat and the carefully articulated lyrics–the better to drive home the freedom of the message. Chuck Berry was present at the birth of rock&roll. His importance was such that he was in the first batch of honorees to the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame; Keith Richards handled his induction.
It wasn’t just the music that Berry shaped, it was the very soul of rock&roll–the attitude. Berry, in trouble more than once with the authorities, brought a rebellious attitude about life, love, and the importance of having a good time to his music. His songs talked about the driving forces of teenage life in America: cars, love, rebellion, lust, music, yearning, “You didn’t know whether Chuck Berry was black or white. It wasn’t a concern”, said Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. His message and his voice was  universal and his attitude was perfect for the times and the music. Rock&roll is not the music of obedience; it is the music of rebellion, of push back, of dissent, of freedom.  It was, as my old pal and running buddy Professor Robert O. McAlister, Phd. says, “tire slashing rock&roll”.
On stage Berry was an accomplished, comfortable, energetic, charismatic performer. He was both an artist in performance and a performance artist. Nothing was left to chance: not the way he dressed, the level at which his guitar was strung, the choreography of his moves–the legendary “duck walk” among them–the carefully crafted pompadour hairstyle (Berry went to cosmetology school); the flamboyant sideburns and pencil thin mustache. Berry played with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, acutely aware of the intimate connection he had with his audience.  He didn’t ease into a show; he blasted into it, setting the tone for the night. His performances were powerful and jumping and joyful–a worship service in the mobile road show temple of rock&roll.
Chuck Berry has gone but he’s still here, present in the music and attitude he created and developed, and in the thousands of musicians he influenced. To get a wider appreciation of Berry’s influence, take the time to go through the Chuck Berry ClickPak below.
With essential background provided by the ClickPak, below please find all you need to know about Chuck Berry:a collection of  songs that Chuck Berry left for us, from various performances.
Click through and turn it up.
You’ll feel a lot better if you do.
Sweet Little Sixteen (intro by Dick Clark..”let’s turn him loose”…got it)
The Fine Print: Video embeds courtesy of our friends at YouTube. All rights belong to their respective artists. 

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