“If you had to give Rock ‘n’ Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” – John Lennon

“Memphis, Tennessee:” This is how you write a song. DAMN. There are multiple characters. An uncle who writes stuff on the wall. A mother who caused problems. There’s a location mentioned so exact you could locate it with GPS. There’s urgency in the voice telling the story. In other words – like in a novel – the voice has a need and a want. You can FEEL it. And THEN. late in the song, comes the Big Reveal. I don’t know how old I was the first time I heard this song but I was young. 9 or 10 years old. And I still remember the sensation when he reveals who Marie is. It was mind-blowing. I had to re-adjust everything I knew based on the new information. It still gets to me, to be honest.

This is a great live performance of one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs. I especially love how he deals with the microphone falling. He just incorporates it. Doesn’t miss a beat.

I don’t think I could be friends with you – at least not true friends, close friends – if you sat in the audience at this performance and didn’t sing along. Or got offended. Or didn’t laugh. I’d continue to be polite to you if you didn’t laugh or if you got offended, but I would know that we just were not the same kind of people and it wouldn’t be any use trying any further than that. Listen to how he gets this whole crowd singing those lyrics. It makes me so happy.

Chuck Berry and Keith Richards, “Little Queenie.” Maestro-macho-guitar showmen.

Letter from Carl Sagan to Chuck Berry:

Chuck Berry on the legendary T.A.M.I. Show.

“Johnny B. Goode” has been so absorbed into the culture that it basically IS our culture. It feels like nobody could have written it. It feels like one of those traditional folk songs, author unknown. But someone actually wrote that song, came up with the images (again, like in “Memphis, Tennessee” filled with novelistic details). It is the most American of American stories.

Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans,
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well,
But he could play a guitar just like a ringing a bell.

Go Go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Johnny B. Goode

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Or sit beneath the tree by the railroad track.
Oh, the engineers would see him sitting in the shade,
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made.
The people passing by, they would stop and say,
“Oh, my, but that little country boy could play!”

Go Go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Johnny B. Goode

His mother told him, “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down.
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying ‘Johnny B. Goode tonight’.”

There would be no US without HIM.

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4 Responses to “If you had to give Rock ‘n’ Roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” – John Lennon

  1. fercris hart says:

    Chuck influenced and inspired the Influencers.

    The Beatles covered dozens of Chuck’s songs in their live broadcast days and many made it to album or were plundered. The Stones cannot be imagined without Chuck Berry.

    For my GGGGener-ation, nobody summed up the Teenage Experience better in a couplet than this: “cruisin’ n’ playin’ the radio, with no particular place to go.”

  2. bybee says:

    The downstairs neighbor boy, age 5, used to sing My Ding-A-Ling all the time. He was constantly in trouble with his mother for this, but he couldn’t stop.

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