Chuck Berry died this week (2017 time) at the age of 90. I am not the first to point out that if rock’n’roll had a Mount Rushmore, Chuck would be on it, along with Little Richard and some combination of Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, or maybe Ike Turner.
That last would be a controversial choice, as Ike is more remembered for the bad things he did than for his contributions to music. With Chuck Berry, for some reason, it’s the other way around; he tends to get a pass for his misbehaviors and be praised for his art. It helps, I think, that he never beat up Tina Turner, which it turns out is about the worst PR you can get. But in addition to his shenanigans with underage girls (hi Jerry Lee!), Chuck did secretly videotape women doing their business in the ladies’ room of the restaurant he owned. That is not only morally repugnant but just plain gross.
In the realm of music, though, Chuck Berry was a titan. He sang, he played guitar, he duckwalked, and he wrote songs that were like short stories you could dance to. His influence on The Beatles was substantial and well-documented; they covered many of his songs and used elements of his work to help create “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Back in the USSR,” and “Come Together.” He was similarly idolized by all the British Invasion bands, especially the Animals and the Rolling Stones. Continue reading »