by Joe Clancy ’18
This Saturday, Chuck Berry, one of the biggest stars in rock and roll history, left the world silent in honor of all he had accomplished and given to the music industry.
Often called the “father of rock and roll,” Berry began his career in 1953, and since he loved music so much, only really left the stage on Saturday, March 18.
Berry was born in 1926, and as a young man, was on a path to crime and obscurity. However, this changed in 1953 when Berry started performing with Johnnie’s Johnson’s trio. Berry’s collaboration with the group came at a time when there was widespread stigma surrounding rock and roll among white audiences, because of the association with African American culture.
Despite this, Berry was able to overcome some of the prejudice and surprisingly became very popular among rural white Americans. His breakthrough came in 1955, when he released his number one hit “Maybellene.” Berry went on to further success as he released hits like “Johnnie B Goode” and “Rock and Roll Music.”
His songs were unique and innovative, in the sense that they focused more on guitar riffs than previous generations recordings. Although the songs were short, they were fast paced and capitative. Berry also helped focus rock and roll around what it is known for today.
While performing, Berry also helped innovate the classic showmanship associated with rock and roll acts. Berry’s style was electric both in guitar and in his movements on stage. Berry was synonymous with “rocking your body” while he danced and played. He even invented a coveted rock move “the duck walk” which saw Berry essentially hopping from one end of the stage to another. Berry would often improvise his music and movements, to give rock that seductive feel for a newly established teenaged audience, who craved it during 1950s conservative America.
Berry was a pioneer, especially as he influenced countless artists that were considered to be some of the greatest musically acts of all time: The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and even Bob Dylan. John Lennon once said that if rock and roll were to be renamed, it would be “Chuck Berry.” Dylan, who is often cited as one of the most gifted lyricist of all time, said that Berry was “the Shakespeare of rock and roll.”
Now Elvis may have the title with some as “the King,” however, Berry is truly rock’s father. Berry brought rock not only to the charts but he opened the genre up to a whole new population. Berry not only introduced America to what rock could become, but he ultimately helped shape its future. There is no doubt, that Berry is truly one of the great innovators of rock and roll.