The OG of Rock ‘n’ Roll
By Alexis Wray
In a world constantly divided by skin color, at times there is really only one thing that can bring them together: music. Music can allow a person to look at the world differently while being entertained at the same time, and if any musician had the ability to do inspire that, it was performer Chuck Berry.
With the recent passing of Chuck Berry at the age of ninety, rock ‘n roll fans have had the opportunity to remember him in all his glory.
“Chuck Berry created a modern sound that was rooted in the African American folk genres, consisting of spirituals, work songs, and more,” remarked Mondre Moffett, director of jazz at North Carolina A&T State University.
Charles Anderson Edward Berry, known by many as Chuck Berry—“the father of rock ‘n roll” – first introduced his music in church and school. Being raised in St. Louis allowed him to witness the severity of segregation. He was forced to attend the first private all-black high school west of Mississippi: Sumner High School.
Chuck Berry soon began mastering the guitar. With his diligence, he then joined the ‘Sir John’s Trio,’ a band led by one of Berry’s mentors, Jonnie Johnson. ‘Sir John’s Trio’ and their repertoire of music landed them a gig at a popular black nightclub, which then began attracting a massive amount of white fans.
“He developed a large body of vernacular folk blues that represented the core of American music,” stated Mondre Moffett.
With the newly found popularity of the tune Chuck Berry offered to the world, he decided to venture out and seek a record label to sign him.
Within a few years, Chuck Berry was able to sign with ‘Chess Records.” From this deal, he produced legendary records such as, “Maybellene,” “Roll Over,” Beethoven,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” and “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.”
“In a hard time, Chuck Berry defined what black music meant in America, that black music was American music,” said Mondre Moffett.
Throughout the years rock ‘n’ roll legend Chuck Berry continued to create timeless music. His influence allowed several revolutionary bands to gain popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, whether at the cost of Chuck Berry and the music he made or to
his benefit with cover songs. Groups who were influenced by him during this time were The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles.
Chuck Berry’s innovative sound not only influenced bands who catered to the white population but their white fans. The music Chuck Berry made was never intended for only one group of people to hear – his rare technique attracted all types of people and brought them together, even during the turbulence of segregation.
Chuck Berry died March 18, 2017, and his legendary sound will never cease to unite and bring peace.