Last week, the music world lost an all-time legend when Chuck Berry passed away at the ripe old age of 90. Who was Chuck Berry, you might ask? The quick answer: the inventor of rock and roll.
While Elvis Presley might have been the most popular of the original 1950s rockers, Chuck Berry was the one who laid the genre’s foundation—the soul of rock and roll. He refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive: teenage-oriented lyrics and guitar solos full of showmanship.
Two of Chuck’s early albums—After School Session (1957) and Chuck Berry is On Top (1959)—are classics that still sound fresh and energetic even today. Featuring such famous songs as “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” Berry’s early work is driven by his charismatic vocals and show-stopping guitar solos.
Quick aside: any list of “Greatest Guitarists of All Time” that doesn’t feature Berry in at least the top 20 (and I’m being generous) doesn’t deserve to see the light of day.
Like so many early rockers, Chuck Berry’s popularity soon declined once the early ‘60s hit, what with the British Invasion and all. So, what was Chuck up to during that decade and beyond? I’ve never listened to any of his “later” stuff, so I’m completely in the dark here. Does it hold up? Not sure. Throughout this coming week, I’ll look into Berry’s back catalogue to see if it’s rightfully overlooked or woefully underrated.
In the meantime, here’s some classic old-school rock ‘n’ roll: