Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Ultimate

It's funny but just last week I was telling a friend it's surprising how many rock greats from its early days are still around.  Sure, Buddy Holly died young, and so did Elvis, but Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino are still around.

Heading that list, actually, was Chuck Berry, who just passed away at 90.  He was the greatest of all the originators.  He sang, played guitar, knew how to put on a show, and, above all, was rock and roll's greatest songwriter.  He created the template that so many followed--it's hard to imagine the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and so many others being what they were if Chuck hadn't come first.  If I had to name a single person most important in inventing rock, it would be Berry.

I don't know what's the first song of his I listened to, but I do remember the first time I heard "Johnny B. Goode." I was at some sort of outdoor fair and the song was blasting over the PA.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I loved the rock, of course, but what really got to me were the lyrics.  They flowed so well, and were so entertaining they almost made me laugh.  Chuck Berry was really the best lyricist ever in rock--I don't think anyone since has topped him.

I've paid tribute to him many time before, and, with a heavy heart, it's time to do it one more time.  Trouble is, you don't know where to start, and you don't know when to stop.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

You might add You Can't Catch Me, a great blues-rock song. John Lennon stole the structure, a bit of the hook, and even some lyrics from it to write "Come Together".

Lennon later covered it himself and made the borrowing even more obvious.

4:47 PM, March 19, 2017  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Lennon was sued over the similarity and part of the settlement was his recording "You Can't Catch Me." (I think Lennon could have won if he'd fought--the question is how much can you borrow and it still be a tribute rather than theft--but perhaps it wasn't worth it.)

Needless to say there are plenty of great songs I left out. By my count Chuck Berry wrote at least 25 to 30 all-time rock and roll classics. Not too many can match his quality or quantity.

5:15 PM, March 19, 2017  

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