The world lost another musical icon with the passing of Chuck Berry on March 18th, 2017. Aside from being a pioneer of the electric guitar (and the rock n roll movement in general), he was also a cultural force to be reckoned with. In a time when the music industry was actively absorbing the sound being churned out by african-americans in small clubs and dives across the USA then repackaging it for main stream consumption, Chuck Berry was a black man who was allowed to rise the top of the music world with a flair and attitude that was seldom tolerated by conventional society up till that point.
As proof of the profundity of his effect on the modern guitar style, learning the intro riff to Johnny B Goode has basically become a right of passage for all aspiring guitar players. But on top of being a musical innovator, Berry was also a consummate professional and businessmen. His direct and often confrontational style earned him a reputation for being a hard-ass within the industry and amongst his musical compatriots (Reading Keith Richard’s assessment of Berry in his autobiography is illuminating if not somewhat biased seeming).
But it’s interesting to see that in a business where the average life expectancy seems to be 60 to 65 (often you’re lucky if you make it past 27), Berry managed to live to the ripe old age of 90! So maybe his “hard-ass” attitude is what it really takes to have a long career in a business that can best be described as cut-throat. Of course I never had to deal with him on a professional level – if I had I might feel otherwise 🙂
Here’s to Chuck Berry – guitar hero, musical innovator and consummate businessman. Job well done Chuck Berry. Now RIP!
And without further ado: