• Stephanie Kim

Rock and Roll’s King: Looking Back at Chuck Berry



The epitome, king, and father of rock ‘n’ roll. The greatest guitarist, performer, and singer-songwriter of all time. Chuck Berry has been called all of these things and more. A man whose music and performances have left their mark for generations, Berry is not only known for the way he played or sang but the way he put on a show. Always looking effortless when on stage, Berry aimed to please the crowd. Showing that his music is both a timeless gift and an inspiration for the industry today.


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 18th, 1926, Berry made his legacy prominent over his 90 years. He was the first African American rock and roll artist to earn a national hit with his tune “Maybellene”, as well as laid the foundation for how rock and roll could be expressed. Berry’s moves were contagious. Constantly grooving with the sound of his music, all eyes stayed on him. No matter the song or decade, he was able to inspire the crowd to get into the music with him and became known as the artist to popularize the duckwalk and his one-legged hop. Berry put his whole heart and body into a performance and wasn’t afraid of who was watching. He was part of the music.


The passing of what would’ve been Berry's 94th birthday should remind the world of the creativity and entertainment he brought. During their Rocktoberfest, Sun Radio Station paid tribute to Berry on his birthday by playing his songs throughout the day. Songs like “Nadine” were played as a reminder of what the day was. On many social media pages, posts were made recognizing the day and honoring Berry for all his accomplishments.


Working with other big names like John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, Berry will always be remembered as an image of rock and roll for many musicians. He will also be remembered for his commitment to the art of music. His first public performance was in 1941 while Berry was still in high school and continued his mark on history until his last one in October of 2014. Looking back over those decades of entertainment, Berry’s performances never dulled. He was constantly moving and dancing the beat with a wobble of the knee or shaking hips. The rhythm seemed to flow through him when he sang. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones said that Berry’s rock and roll playing was, “beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection.” Another guitarist, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, said that it’s always difficult for other artists to play Chuck Berry’s songs because of how hard they are, “it’s the rock and roll thing, the push-pull and the rhythm of it”. The sort of complexity that Berry made look so simple. 


Though Chuck Berry isn’t with us on what would have been his 94th birthday, he will always be remembered for his incredible accomplishments and the feeling he spread to others. He not only set the foundation for rock and roll but built upon his own creation over the many decades he played. Berry’s songs continue their influence over the everchanging art of rock and roll and show fans today that the music never dies. After all, “It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it”.

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