While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they did themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.
His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.
In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons. [Read More]
Like the rest of the world, our family was saddened to hear of Chuck
Berry’s passing. Nearly sixty years ago, Mr. Berry played a
groundbreaking set at Newport and to celebrate his innovative and
immeasurable impact on the world of music and culture, we had been
working with Mr. Berry’s family and record label to celebrate his 90th
birthday at the fort this summer. With the sudden news of his passing
we have decided to turn this celebration into a
collaborative tribute honoring the father of rock n’ roll. Our thoughts
and prayers are with his loved ones, and we look forward to sharing the
joy of his music with all of you on Sunday July 30.