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Monday, March 20, 2017

Rant #1,865: Rock and Roll Music

"Another way to say 'rock and roll' is to say 'Chuck Berry.'"--John Lennon

I know I probably did not get his quote exactly right, but even in paraphrasing in what he said, I think Lennon was spot-on when it came to Chuck Berry and his contributions to what became known as rock and roll music.

Berry died this weekend at age 90.

If Elvis Presley was rock and roll's first bonafide star, Berry was its first bonafide songwriter.

His best known hits, including "Maybelline," "Johnny B. Goode," and "Rock and Roll Music," truly were the seminal songs that rock and roll built its foundation on, and while numerous clashes with the law kind of derailed his career from being an even greater one, those tunes were the foundation by which others built their own musical legacy.

"Chuck's Children," as they became known to be, including such stars as the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones, and they took what he gave them and expanded upon those building blocks into something even he probably could not have foreseen.

Presley was its first star, but Berry wielded much more influence on the music he helped to create by being a songwriter.

And he also wielded influence as a performer. Although certainly not as charismatic as Presley, who can argue that his duckwalk set the standard for all rock and roll performers from that point to eternity?

Berry's chart career began in 1955 and lasted until 1972. During that period, he placed 27 songs on Billboard's Hot 100, and two singles placed on the Bubbling Under chart.

As well as the aforementioned songs, his hits--among the building blocks of rock and roll--included "Roll Over Beethoven," "School Day," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and "Carol."

He also has nine albums on Billboard's albums chart, with only one LP, the "London Sessions" collection, breaking the Top 10.

In fact, Berry had just one number one hit--the double entendre-filled "My Ding-A-Ling," which hit the top spot during the height of the rock and roll revival era, in 1972.

But his influence was still being felt to this day, with every rock and roller of any note knowing Berry's catalog of hits inside and out.

A movie about his career, "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll," was released in the 1980s, and portrayed him as a surly person, hard to get along with and one who believed all of his press clippings, and wanted you to believe them too.

Whether it was a fair portrayal or not, it kind of defined Berry for the rest of his life, one where he worked well through his 60s, 70s, 80s and through his 90th year.

Recently he proclaimed that he would be releasing his first album in about 30 years this year, with little other details about the recording.

If it does get released, it will now be done posthumously, because the real king of rock and roll is gone.

"Hail, Hail Rock and Roll"--R.I.P., Chuck Berry. You done good.

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