Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry, 1926-2017

He was 90, and yet his passing still comes as a shock. I just assumed he would always be there, just like his words and music.

Some time back, there was a discussion here about great songwriters and the usual names came up. But, so did Chuck Berry, a not so usual suggestion when discussing Bob Dylan or Cole Porter or John and Paul. As much as we love rock and roll and Chuck Berry, we take that "Johnny B. Goode" riff for granted. But underneath it all, were real stories.

Without Chuck Berry, well...I don't want to think about it.

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis Tennessee
Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge

Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee

Last time I saw Marie she's waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee

I got lumps in my throat
When I saw her comin' down the aisle
I got the wiggles in my knees
When she looked at me and sweetly smiled
There she is again
Standin' over by the record machine
Looking like a model
On the cover of a magazine
She's too cute to be a minute over seventeen
Meanwhile I was thinkin'
If she's in the mood no need to break it
I got the chance and I oughta take it
If she can dance we can make it
C'mon queenie let's shake it

Tell me who's the queen
Standin' over by the record machine
Looking like a model
On the cover of a magazine
She's too cute to be a minute over seventeen
Meanwhile, I was still thinkin'
If it's a slow song, we'll omit it
If it's a rocker, then we'll get it
And if it's good, she'll admit it
C'mon queenie, let's get with it

And how about this filthy little groove!




whattawino said...

Chuck Berry...A GIANT of a man and his music stands by itself....right through NOW and BEYOND....thanks for the posting, Sal.


Wow! Great post Sal.

I was listening to Club Nitty Gritty as I started to read today's post. :-)

Sounds like there might be a few Chuck Berry stories being told in the days to come. I started with Peter Guralnick's -- not bad!

Dr Wu said...

Outstanding tribute, sir. Nearly as amazing as 'The Great Twenty-Eight'!

Anonymous said...

I loved lots of Bowie's music, but Chuck was truly from another planet
instead of merely acting like it. His stuff may seem trite if one was
brought up on his progeny -- the curse of all proto-revolutionaries toiling
in an ahistorical cultural milieu -- but if one explores because he wants
to know how something he loves (or is interested in) got to be what he
loves, then Chuck comes into focus for writing perfectly-detailed vignettes
in a perfectly-enunciated singing voice over wonderfully expressive and
powerful music. Sure, the sound and riffs were bedrock foundational -- he'd
be in the pantheon even if that's all he contributed -- but those
songwriting chops rival Dylan and Paul Simon and Smokey Robinson (an
underappreciated wordsmith in my opinion) and whoever else they can proffer
up for comparison. That he married that songcraft to that defining music
puts him beyond the reach of almost everyone. And that it was largely
calculated on his part is immaterial. Few of the greats were just winging
it, and when they did, it was their innate gifts that allowed their choices
to work out right.
C in California

Anonymous said...

On my Ipod I've got eight different Bowie playlists, each with about 30+ songs so about 250 total. I was listening to one of them while cooking dinner Sunday evening. I pause the Ipod to listen to NBC news report on Chuck's passing. After it's over I hit the music again and the very next song up is Bowie's cover of Around and Around. Randy

buzzbabyjesus said...

"The Great Twenty Eight" are all that. Chuck was the King as much as anyone.

dogbreath said...

Good choices. A lot of my earliest musical memories are of Chuck Berry songs performed, more often than not back then, by other artistes & it was later when I got into the man's original versions that I learned the history behind the music.

A walk in the woods said...

I've often thought, these past few years, as some favorites have passed, "Well, at least we still have Chuck Berry!" He lived far longer than most would have thought, and even played right up until near the end.

In fact, he has an album coming out this year!!

Bill said...

I always loved Memphis. I first heard it through the Faces' version. But hearing the original added extra depth to the song. There's a wistfulness and longing to it that gets lost in more rocking takes. And "hurry home drops" is a wonderful turn of phrase.