Chuck Berry invented rock n’ roll; what the fuck have you done with your life?
Chuck died today–he was 90–and he was not a good man: Chuck Berry was a prick, a pervert, a pinchpenny, a peeper, and pederast, and always on parole, probation, or in the penitentiary. He was bitter and cynical, and rude to paying audiences.
But he invented rock n’ roll. White boys got all the money, but a brown-eyed handsome man did the work (or at least took credit for the work of his piano player). Chuck Berry didn’t just write the most famous guitar riff in Rock n’ Roll music–and Chuck played Rock n’ Roll music, not Rock music; there’s a difference–he wrote a law: Rock ‘n Roll is guitar music. Sure, you need a good drummer and it’s always helpful to have a bass player, but this music here is guitar music. Plug a Gibson into a Fender, and make sure your hair looks good.
No British Invasion, no surf music, no punk, no rockabilly, no “roots” rock (whatever the fuck that is). No Keef or Angus or Eddie or any other of your Guitar Gods without Chuck. 95% of all Grateful Dead shows would be four or five minutes shorter without Chuck. Hell, no one would have any idea what to write songs about if it weren’t for Chuck; he set the thematic parameters: cars, girls, and The Man.
And he wrote a song called Memphis, Tennessee, which has the most heartbreaking twist ending in all of music:
Chuck Berry wasn’t the King of Rock n’ Roll. He was the first one to settle in the village, and he mapped the territory; those who moved in later paid him respect, but he would have rather had the money. He’s gone now, but we can still play Rock n’ Roll music too loud and take our best girls out motorvating. Maybe we’ll even get her seat belt off this time.
Chuck Berry is dead and there won’t be another one like him, which is exactly the way he’d want it.