An architect of rock

Chuck Berry laid musical groundwork for generations

When NASA launched its Voyager probes in 1977, both probes contained gold-plated audiovisual discs that contained “sounds of Earth” for whatever intelligent life forms might find them eons from now.


Of the discs’ 90 minutes of music, there’s only one rock ’n’ roll song – Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry.

See Also

So it’s been said that Berry, who died Saturday at age 90, still is on tour – indefinitely, hurtling through the cosmos.

Back on Earth, Berry’s correctly called one of the architects of the musical genre of rock. So many of his songs – Maybel­lene; Roll Over, Beethoven; Rock and Roll Music; Sweet Little Sixteen – are undisputed classics.

As a musician, he wasn’t one of the most technically accomplished guitarists. But any kid who’s ever had a guitar and a dream knew you couldn’t play rock without playing like Berry.

Many guitarists call it the double-stop or the “harmony lick,” but Berry used the technique of bending and strumming two strings at once with such familiarity and mastery that it’s often just called the “Chuck Berry lick.” Everybody copied it.

“If you don’t know every Chuck Berry lick,” quipped rock legend Ted Nugent, “you can’t play rock guitar.”

Berry’s bold music style also helped shape the rock ’n’ roll attitude. Combined with his tireless showmanship, he was a living embodiment of the restless, rebellious music he played. Some of the most common themes in rock lyrics – cars, girls, school, coming of age – can be traced to Berry. He distilled rock’s essence.

“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 knew themselves,” wrote New York Times music critic Jon Pareles.

The highest praise, however, might have come from another John – John Lennon:

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name,” he said, “you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’ ”

Dee STAFFORD 6 months ago
I was so fortunate to come of age and enjoy people like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, the Isley Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Little Richard, and the like.

THAT was the heyday of Rock and Roll: mid-1950's until 1963 or 1964.

Rock and Roll and the Shag.  Too bad so many missed it.
Val White 6 months ago

It truly was the best of times when it came to music.  I, too, came of age in the mid 50's with all those greats - Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Diamonds, The Platters and so many, many more.

Roland SASSER 6 months ago
In my opinion, Berry exhibited skill, talent, and style while a lot of other rock music is synthesized noise.
Jerry Whitcomb 6 months ago
Chuck Berry. What a concept. A beat that made you move and words that made sense and you could understand and sing along with. 

The "thump thump" same beat,unintelligible gibberish they have today ain't no where near music. Sounds like a bunch of natives beating on a hollow log and zombie mumbling around a fire in the jungle somewhere. Actually, I guess that is pretty close to what it is.

I haven't heard any new, good music since the '80s. Thank goodness for the '50s, '60s, and '70s channels on Sirius satellite radio. 


Fri, 05/26/2017 - 22:35

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 22:36

Don’t mix news, opinion

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 22:35

Correct security threat

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 22:35

The village can’t do this alone

Around the Web