Happy Birthday to Chuck Berry, the "Father Of Rock N' Roll," who turns 86-years-old today (October 18th)!!! Berry, who pioneered the rock genre with his unique storytelling and clever use of poetics, will undoubtedly be remembered for his signature two-note, guitar-bending lick, variations of which opened up his classic '50s hits "Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Little Queenie," "Carol," and many more.
Berry's music bridged the gap between rockabilly and blues on songs like "Maybellene," and broke the color barrier on classics such as "You Never Can Tell" and "School Days," which had more to do with the problems of white American teens than those of segregated blacks living in the south.
George Thorogood has been a lifelong fan of Berry's and says that as far as rock artists go, Berry is a complete and unbeatable package: "With Chuck Berry, you've got the all-time four-star player. He's a great performer, a great writer, a great singer, and a great player. Not many people have that, all four things combined. Some can sing great, but they don't write. Some write, but they don't sing. Chuck Berry was the first of that. There's only a handful of them. John Fogerty -- one, the Beatles. . . There's very few that have all that covered. And I'm talking about great writing and great performing. I'm not just talking about, 'Oh, he plays guitar pretty good or he writes pretty good.' (He's) up there on the top with all four things. . . Arguably, probably the greatest rock n' roll star ever."
Berry paved the way for the major songwriters of the '60s, such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Brian Wilson and Pete Townshend, who were inspired by Berry and his peers Little Richard and Buddy Holly to compose and perform their own material. Chuck Berry's resurgence in the mid-'60s was due largely to his influence on the British invasion.
Dave Davies of the Kinks told us that the band probably never would've existed if not for Berry's legendary '50s tunes: "Ray (Davies) and I were big fans of Chuck Berry, and we used to get together and play Chuck Berry riffs. Maybe we would never have formed the band without people like Chuck Berry."
Although the Beatles only released two Berry covers on their official albums ("Roll Over Beethoven" and "Rock And Roll Music"), their 1994 Live At The BBC compilation included six additional Berry covers that were often performed in their nightclub repertoire: "Too Much Monkey Business," "I Got To Find My Baby," "Carol," "Johnny B. Goode," "Memphis, Tennessee," and "Sweet Little Sixteen." The group's "I Saw Her Standing There" actually borrowed the bassline from Berry's "Little Queenie."
The Beatles opened their first U.S. concert on February 11th, 1964 at the Washington Coliseum with "Roll Over Beethoven" as a salute to Berry.
John Lennon covered Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" on his 1975 Rock N' Roll collection, and McCartney paid tribute to Berry by recording "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" on his 1999 album, Run Devil Run.
The Rolling Stones' debut single was a cover of Berry's "Come On." They went on to cover eight other Berry classics, including "Carol," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "You Can't Catch Me," "Bye Bye Johnny," "Little Queenie," "Talkin' About You," "Around And Around," and "Let It Rock."
In 2006, Berry's 1987 concert documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, was released in both two- and four-DVD expanded editions. The movie chronicled the concert and rehearsals around Berry's 60th birthday concert in St. Louis, and featured performances by the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, and others.
John Lennon often called Chuck Berry rock's first "poet." Berry says that his secret was always to keep his lyrics simple and make them rhyme: "'Mary had a little lamb, her fleece was white as snow, a da-da-da-da-da-da-da-o.' That's the way it rhymes. Rhyming to me is creating the vowels on the end of each line that is supposed to be, so it's a mathematical thing, y'know? Two and two makes four, and as you go on down the line, all those numbers are equal not odds. Isn't that something? Isn't that a way to explain something? Anyway, I liked it, so I kept it up."
Berry says that while looking back on his career, he ultimately has very few complaints: "The good life outweighs. . . now, I don't say bad, I say the indifferent lives that I've had. It just makes me happy to know that nobody's gonna live a perfect life -- nobody ever has. So I'm thankful that I've come this far, this long, this good."
Chuck Berry will next perform on October 27th in Cleveland, Ohio at the "American Music Masters Series" at the State Theatre.