Leader: In praise of ... Chuck Berry

Leader: Fans across the world are hoping that Chuck Berry will choose this evening to play one of his occasional Wednesday gigs at the Blueberry Hill in his native St Louis. For today is the brown-eyed handsome man’s 80th birthday, a rare milestone in a musical world in which too many others have died before they got old.

Even though only a handful of them have any chance of getting there, fans across the world are hoping that Chuck Berry will choose this evening to play one of his occasional Wednesday gigs at the Blueberry Hill in his native St Louis. For today is the brown-eyed handsome man's 80th birthday, a rare milestone in a musical world in which too many others have died before they got old.

With the release of Maybellene in September 1955 Mr Berry became rock'n'roll's key breakthrough black artist and an unrivalled influence on later performers. One of those, John Lennon, once said that if you had to give rock'n'roll another name you would call it Chuck Berry. That's because he is rock'n'roll's defining guitarist and its greatest songwriter, with a string of classic hits like Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen and, arguably the most perfect rock'n'roll record of them all, Johnny B Goode, the sounds of which still echo across the universe from the Voyager I spacecraft, launched nearly 30 years ago.

After a prison term in the early 1960s, Mr Berry returned with a second golden phase of his career with songs like Nadine, No Particular Place To Go and You Never Can Tell. Though he infamously only ever made it to number one in this country with the cringe-making My Ding-A-Ling, it still all adds up to the most matchless back catalogue of the pre-Beatles era. Even now, when the mood is on him and the money is right, Mr Berry can still play a better set than many half his age. Hail, hail, Chuck Berry.

Leader

The GuardianTramp

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