A Tribute to the Legendary Chuck Berry
Whole Lotta Love-Led Zeppelin, Satisfaction-The Rolling Stones, You Really Got Me-The Kinks, Pretty Woman-Roy Orbison, Smoke On The Water-Deep Purple, Sunshine Of Your Love-Cream, Layla- Derek & The Dominos, and Highway To Hell-AC/DC
These are just some of the many classic rock tracks that inspired tens of millions of boys and girls all over the world to want to play the guitar. Hearing those guitar riffs struck a nerve in the youth of the world. It made them want to learn to play a six-string and create their own piece of history. Who inspired The Stones and Zeppelin and AC/DC etc? It was one man, with one riff. It was a song about a boy who could play the guitar just like he’s ringing a bell. In 1958, Charles Edward Anderson (Chuck) Berry wrote a song that would change the world of music, forever! That song was Johnny B. Goode.
According to Berry, the song is ‘partly autobiographical’. The song’s lyrics are certainly well-known but it is the guitar riff that was the star of the show. Go ahead, Google Johnny B. Goode. Listen to it. Those opening notes, almost 60 years later, still sound relevant and still move kids to want to play the guitar. Rock N Roll, the essence of it, is about the riff. All rock music centers around the notes and the chords in whichever key the writer feels best suits the mood of the song. When you hear that iconic riff to Johnny B. Goode, you can’t help but reach for the volume knob and turn it towards the right. You can’t help but bop your head, tap your foot, and groove your shoulders.
Rock N Roll, at its finest, fills you with adrenaline and vigor. I can only imagine what a 16-year-old must have felt in 1958 when they first heard Johnny B Goode. I am sure they were as blown away as i was when I first heard Dirty Deeds…Done Dirt Cheap. Chuck Berry did have several other hits. Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, School days (which AC/DC does an amazing cover of) and Rock And Roll Music are some of his other masterpieces. But, Johnny B. Goode will always be the song that people think of when they think about Mr. Berry.
Chuck passed away on March 18th in his native state of Missouri. He was 90 years old. His passing was very sad for me. It was his song writing ability that impacted rock music more than anyone. Sure, there were other pioneers from that era that had an impact as well. Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash helped create what would become the rock and roll template that others would follow but it was Chuck Berry that had the biggest impact of all. If you’re a rock purist like me and if you like music centered around a blues-based riff with a solid back beat and a bass line that lays a perfect foundation, man, it all started with Johnny B Goode and it all started with Chuck Berry.
Angus Young of AC/DC grew up idolizing Berry. So much so that he emulates his famous “Duck Walk” on stage. Angus plays with the same spirit of sheer joy and ecstasy as Berry. They just don’t strum the notes on the instrument. They bring those notes to life with their incredible charisma. That sort of dynamic level of guitar playing is a dying breed. Who was the last guitar player that not only was a great musician, but also was a great showman? Yeah, I can’t think of anyone recently either.
If you have read many of my previous articles about music, you’ll know how much disdain I have for the alleged rock music that is around today. Johnny B Goode moved me. It moved you, too. Music from Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin, and Five Finger Death Punch just sounds like mindless noise to me. The only thing those bands move me to do is change the radio station. Chuck Berry’s music changed everything. All of the songs mentioned in the beginning of this piece are all centered around the guitar riff. The song that created that style was Johnny B Goode. Chuck Berry was no angel outside of the studio. In 1959 he was arrested and sent to jail for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. Of course, I find that revolting and inexcusable. But, Chuck Berry the song writer and musician will always be one of my heroes.
No matter how many times I listen to Johnny B. Goode, I will always tap my foot, bop my head and belt out that chorus: “Go Johnny, go, Go Johnny go go go, Go Johnny go go go…..Johnny B. Goode”.
Thank you Mr. Berry for all that you’ve done. May you Rest In Peace!
Two of my biggest passions are sports and rock music. Both of which, I have many strong and at times provocative opinions on.
My favorite bands are AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and 80s Metallica and well, I have to admit I listen to a lot of Kiss, too.
My teams are the Mets, Jets and Rangers(I know, they all suck)
I've never met a place for buffalo wings that I didn't like.
I am a customs house broker by trade but I have this yearning to express my views on a variety of topics and blogging has become a great outlet for my voice.
In the words of the immortal Bon Scott, "Lock up your daughter and lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life. The man is back in town, so don't you mess me around"