This year Chuck Berry, the man who created rock and roll, celebrates his 90th birthday. Chuck Berry was born on October 18, 1926 in St. Louis Missouri. With the help of his friend Ira Harris, he developed a unique sound, learning basic rhythm changes and blues chords on guitar. His official career started in 1955 when he was signed onto Chess Records. He recorded a number of singles, and gained considerable attention for songs like “Maybellene”. This single reached #5 on the Pop Charts and paved the way for his career.
Chuck Berry is, in many ways, the reason rock exists. He is the sole pioneer of the music that perfectly combines jazz, blues, and pop. Integrating catchy lyrics and intense guitar solos into his sound, his creations brought light to endless new possibilities for music. Chuck Berry introduced the guitar as a major instrument in his music with iconic songs like “Johnny B. Goode”, “Roll Over Beethoven” and “My Ding-A-Ling”. He used the blues and influences from famous blues artists like Muddy Waters to pave the way for rock.
Chuck Berry’s music greatly stood out from other music during the 50’s. Artists like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly were significant voices at the time, but only offered very slow pop songs. Songs like “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Everyday” are perfect examples of catchy pop songs that lack a driving force. Chuck Berry, despite being from the same time period, was the exact opposite of this. Chuck Berry’s songs are layered with raw force and a driving tempo.
This intensity was the foundation of rock and roll, and the basis for the developing sounds of bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. The member of these famous rock bands were teenagers when Chuck Berry’s music was around. They would have listened to his music, and as a result he likely had a major influence on these bands as they formed. As said by Spotify, “Quite simply, without him there would be no Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, nor a myriad others”. These artists, who had hugely impacted the evolution of music to what we have today, likely would not have been as innovative without Chuck Berry.
Possibly the most important influence of Chuck Berry came from his immense teenage audience. The way his music stood out to teenagers defined what he did for music. Most have an understanding of the common ideologies of teenage living: throwing parties, being reckless, disrespecting authority, and much more. While I wouldn’t say that Chuck Berry encouraged this kind of behavior, he successfully embraced a free way of life with his music. The teenage attitude expressed in his music gives the songs a flaring energy that stands out in a very noticeable way.
Overall, Chuck Berry’s unique style shaped rock and roll. His blues-infused guitar playing embraced a free way of life and inspired generations to come. His involvement in music is one that needs to be acknowledged and remembered. He retains a legacy that will never die, and is truly the man who got rock rolling.
“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”
– John Lennon