Sunday, March 19, 2017


It's always been my intention, since I started this blog, to bring my personal experiences and connections to some topics of the day that catch my attention. I am so happy that many news and Internet outlets are referring to Chuck Berry in their obituaries as "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" because he was. His influence on me was enormous as his music hit the radio just as I was hitting puberty.

I posted the photo of the cover of the first anthology I had poetry in, CAMPFIRES OF THE RESISTANCE (Bobbs-Merrill 1971), because in my bio for it the first thing I mention is the influence of Chuck Berry. I attended the U. of Iowa Writers Workshop on The G.I. Bill and received an MFA in Poetry in 1968 and the title of the collection I submitted for my thesis was "Sittin' Down At A Rhythm Review." Which I thought summarized the workshop experience for me. Most of the professors had no idea what the title referenced.

But here's a video of Berry singing and playing the song that title came from—"Roll Over Beethoven"—in 1958, several years after the song came out, and as usual he is working with the house band, or local musicians (in an obviously foreign venue as the way he does his intro implies) and expects them to keep up with him as he sings his own lyrics and melody in a way unique to this performance (very much like a jazz musician, and like many rock'n'rollers who would follow in his footsteps, in one way or another, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan among many), listen to the way he changes the ending chords to minor ones distinct from the record...

His performances alone were templates for how to showcase rock'n'roll guitar virtuosity, and if that's all he had done would have given him the right to be called "The Father of Rock'n'Roll" but listen to the lyrics and the chords and the melody and acknowledge he was the great innovator who combined genres of earlier music—jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, pop and even country—into a guitar driven explosion of exuberance that changed not only music but culture and society...forever.

Long live rock'n'roll!  

1 comment:

Bob said...

I certainly know what you mean. Back in the early 70's a cousin of mine attended Ohio University and his thesis was the lyrics of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis as poetry and literature. I was surprised at this which prompted me to read some of the lyrics which proved to be very eye-opening and proved my cousin to be correct.