Chuck Berry's vast contribution to the music world is reflected in the plaudits he has won from many of the most well known artists who followed him. As a songwriter, guitarist and performer, he shaped rock and roll and has more than earned his place in the Top 5 of the Rolling Stone list of The Immortals. In 2004 six of his songs found their way onto the magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs...
Chuck Berry is still alive. Sixty years ago, he invented rock 'n' roll. He all but vanished. He still plays, though. Even records new material. But not for us. . . . He was maybe six, maybe seven when he found his father's perpetual-motion machine Friction. It didn't work.
But the son chuck Berry made something that's still going. You still hear it today, One of the first records he made was tucked away inside the Voyager spacecraft, chosen to represent humanity itself to the cosmos, and that spacecraft is now somewhere way out there, on the edge of the solar system, barreling through the frictionless vacuum.
So he succeeded where his father failed. He created something that will go on forever.
Chuck Berry invented rock 'n' roll.
Okay, nobody invented rock 'n' roll.
It's a patchwork of blues and country and folk, and it's more than that, too.
Chuck Berry's music wasn't totally anything.
His first single, "Maybellene," was built out of an old white hillbilly country song, then fed through the blender of Berry's guitar and Willie Dixon's bass until something entirely new poured out.
And whatever that was, that new sound, that white-black hybrid, Berry ran with it, and the rest of the world did, too.
There's no arguing that the songs that Berry wrote in the mid-1950s - songs like "Johnny B. Goode," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and "Roll Over Beethoven" - are the bedrock substrates underlying pretty much everything we now call rock 'n' roll.
"If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name," he said, "you might call it Chuck Berry."