Remembering Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll, has died at age 90. Jim and Greg reflect on the life, music, and enduring legacy of the legendary guitarist, lyricist, and singer.

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Remembering Chuck Berry

Born in St. Louis in 1926, Chuck Berry began his professional music career fairly late in life. In fact, his breakthrough hit, 1955’s Maybellene was recorded when Berry was 28 years old.

Jim says that Berry helped craft the very identity of rock and roll, often name checking the burgeoning genre in his lyrics. Berry’s songwriting on tracks like School Day and Roll Over Beethoven deftly expressed the angst and rebelliousness of youth culture; and his guitar-led sound influenced rock outfits for generations to come. According to Jim, the Berry attitude: sly, sarcastic, risque... conspiratiorial is an element of his persona that has served as a template for rockers, as well. Greg notes that in addition to teen anthems, Chuck Berry’s catalogue also contains sophisticated lyrics, like those found in 1959’s Memphis, Tennessee, a song about a father estranged from his 6 year old daughter, Marie.

To learn more about Chuck Berry’s life and legacy, Greg and Jim spoke with Ed Ward, a writer and author of The History of Rock & Roll Volume 1: 1920 - 1963. Ed also wrote the seminal rock criticism book Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll.

The hosts also sat down with drummer Steven Gillis. Steven played with Chuck Berry at a 2011 Chicago concert that made headlines when the then-84 year old rock legend had to be rushed to the hospital mid-show. Steven shares his memories of sharing the stage with Berry that night.

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