The Record That Changed My Life
Chuck Berry — Chuck Berry's Golden Decade 1955-1965
There was a time when it seemed Rock & Roll could only be played the way Chuck Berry played it. Regardless of what you might think of his music's worth, without him what we called Rock & Roll would have been radically different. He is the true Father of the music, if such a term has any validity. It is ironic because much of the actual music attributed to Chuck came from his brilliant piano player, Johnny Johnson. Johnny provided the swing and the verve. But it was Chuck who brought those lyrics to the songs. In my opinion, the best of Chuck's lyrics are far superior to other highly touted Rock lyricists (Dylan, Lou Reed, Ray Davies, Townshend, etc.). I believe Chuck saw himself first as an entertainer and perhaps secondly as a songwriter. For him, writing was a means to an end —making as much money as possible. This was fortunate because he was never burdened with the concept of being an "Artist." As such, he wrote things in a plain, unpretentious manner and through his own idiosyncratic perspective of what he thought the public wanted to hear. He had piercing witticism, an ability to observe small details that revealed larger truths and a way of mangling the language, sometimes creating new words for ordinary objects and situations. The beauty of it is that this was all done intuitively. None of it smacked of being laborious or overly thought out. It felt natural and easy. I bought my first Chuck Berry record in 1972. It was called Chuck Berry's Golden Decade 1955-1965. As far as I'm concerned, I could have stopped buying Rock & Roll records at that point because I wasn't going to find a better one.
MAURICE MATTEI's Web site (mmattei.com) has info on upcoming shows, his various CD releases and photography, and engaging essays about almost anything.