Chuck Berry

Remembering 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.

Featured Songs

  1. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five, Ain‘t That Just Like a Woman (They’ll Do It Every Time), Ain‘t That Just Like a Woman (They’ll Do It Every Time) (single), Decca, 1946
  2. Joe Alexander and The Cubans, Oh Maria, Oh Maria (single), Ballad, 1954
  3. Chuck Berry, You Can't Catch Me, You Can't Catch Me (single), Chess, 1956
  4. Chuck Berry, Almost Grown, Little Queenie (single), Chess, 1958
  5. Chuck Berry, Thirty Days (To Come Back Home), Thirty Days (To Come Back Home) (single), Chess, 1955
  6. Muddy Waters, She's All Right, She's All Right (single), Chess, 1953
  7. Chuck Berry, Deep Feeling, School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) (single), Chess, 1957
  8. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Ida Red, Ida Red (single), Vocalion, 1938
  9. Chuck Berry, Maybellene, Maybellene (single), Chess, 1955
  10. Chuck Berry, Carol, Carol (single), Chess, 1958
  11. Chuck Berry, School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell), School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell) (single), Chess, 1957
  12. Chuck Berry, Roll Over Beethoven, Roll Over Beethoven (single), Chess, 1956
  13. Chuck Berry, Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis, Tennesee (single), Chess, 1959
  14. Chuck Berry, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Brown Eyed Handsome Man (single), Chess, 1956
  15. Chuck Berry, You Never Can Tell, You Never Can Tell (single), Chess, 1964
  16. The Beach Boys, Surfin' U.S.A., Surfin' U.S.A., Capitol, 1963
  17. The Beatles, I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, Parlophone, 1963
  18. Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bringing It All Back Home, Columbia, 1965
  19. The Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar, Sticky Fingers, Rolling Stones, 1971
  20. Simon & Garfunkel, Kodachrome / Maybellene, The Concert in Central Park, Warner Bros., 1982
  21. Nina Simone, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, High Priestess of Soul, Philips, 1967
  22. T. Rex, Get It On, Electric Warrior, Reprise, 1971
  23. Bruce Springsteen, From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, Columbia, 1980
  24. Emmylou Harris, (You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie, Luxury Liner, Warner Bros., 1976
  25. Sex Pistols, Johnny B. Goode, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, Virgin, 1979
  26. Buck Owens, Johnny B. Goode, Buck Owens in London "Live", Capitol, 1969
  27. Peter Tosh, Johnny B. Goode, Mama Africa, EMI, 1983
  28. Judas Priest, Johnny B. Goode, Ram It Down, Columbia, 1988
  29. LL Cool J, Go Cut Creator Go, Bigger and Deffer, Def Jam, 1987
  30. Chuck Berry, Nadine, Nadine (single), Chess, 1964
  31. Muddy Waters, Long Distance Call, Long Distance Call (single), Chess, 1951
  32. Frank Zappa, Peaches En Regalia, Hot Rats, Reprise, 1969
  33. William DeVaughn, Be Thankful For What You Got, Be Thankful For What You Got, Roxbury, 1974
  34. Paul Simon, The Obvious Child, The Rhythm Of The Saints, Warner Bros., 1990
  35. Sunflower Bean, Come On (Live on Sound Opinions), Human Ceremony, Fat Possum, 2016