TODAY -

He who gave birth to rock n' roll

Jyaneswar Laishram *



Little or nothing did my generation know about Chuck Berry when we used to rock n' roll during our high school days in Bishenpur, because he was not as fair and handsome as Elvis Presley. That was the time then when amateur teen rock music enthusiasts in my age group around my hometown rather went for attribute of fair and handsomeness than any intrinsic musical value in a rocker. A pimpled classmate of mine in Bishenpur was named Elvis by his parents, after the rock's first pop star. Sadly nobody was found to be called 'Chuck' or 'Berry' around!

By look, Berry was closely resembled with a teli-wala (mobile edible oil seller) called Balkrishna Mishra from Bihar who catered mustard oil to every household around Bishenpur. The bad look subsided, of late, Chuck Berry fans in my circle of friends comprising musicians and critics eventually discovered the architect of rock n' roll music who passed away recently at his St Louis home at the age of 90.

Berry, with his unique style of guitar lick and body language, was the one who carved rock n' roll out of blues and jazz. He was a master theorist and a conceptual genius who inspired a host of his contemporaries and successors - right from Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones, The Beatles to AC/DC. The ever popular duck walk of AC/DC guitarist Angus Young is unquestionably a reproduction of what Berry ever did in every single gig he performed.

Youth culture

Berry surfaced amid the time of big social barrier between black and white classes in America. And he broke that barrier. His style of new music, which later called 'rock', electrified young white audiences and influenced horde of musicians who came from Europe and Australia to take part in the popular music scene of America. Analysts opine that Berry had defined modern teenagers in the 1950s in the line of James Dean and JD Salinger, setting a narrative for the generation whose life was no longer under pressure of war and hardship.

What Berry introduced about rock n' roll was more than a musical genre, but a story to tell. In the story, he narrated youth about openness and a new generation unlocked from social and parental bondages. Before the rise of Bob Dylan, it was Berry who sang some songs narrating social prejudices, going a bit beyond adolescence. John Lennon in an interview once said that Berry would introduce intelligent funky lyrics.

Bad boy Berry

Every one of us has a dark side, so did Berry who had a lot of trouble with the laws during his younger years. Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in 1926 at St Louis, he brought up in a poor family. In his teens, he spent almost three years in reform school after a spree of armed robbery and other petty theft crimes. When black were an outcast in America and every public space like convention or concert hall was designed with separate arenas for 'black' and 'white' classes, Berry did care little about it. He even tried to date a white woman in Mississippi, for that he had been jailed.

Women were involved whenever Berry got tangled in a crime. In 1962, he went to jail after the girl he hired for his nightclub turned out to be a minor involved in prostitution. Berry, however, claimed that the girl was 20 and she herself went to the police after he fired her. Then in the year 1990, several women filed suits claiming Berry videotaped them while in bathrooms.

His music and lyrics

Brought up in a middle-class suburb, Berry socked up with some good old blues, soul, gospel and of course, country. Many music critics called him a bluesman who gave birth to a baby called 'rock n' roll'. Despite blues, Berry picked ingredients from jazz and soul to hybridize his music. It was in the early 1950s, he joined hands with a number of jazz musicians, such as pianist Johnnie Johnson, double-bass player Willie Dixon and many others.

A big turn took place with Berry in the year 1955 when he arrived in the Chicago blues scene, at the doorstep of his idol Muddy Waters who later introduced him to Chess Records recording studio. Owner of the studio, Leonard Chess, found a new potential of swing music in Berry's song Ida Red, a variant of a country track of the same name. As the lyrics of the song sketched a narrator (a motorvatin) chasing car after an elusive girl, Chess wanted to rename it 'Mabellene' and released in the same year gaining top places in charts.

What it takes is a bite of blues with twang of country and some jazz equanimity in Berry's music. In some of his timeless numbers like Sweet Little Sixteen, Johnny B Goode, You Can't Catch Me, he proved rock as a form of music that filled all that wishes of young people. His lyrics celebrate, and at the same time, satirize the opportunities and class tensions in America. Some of his energetic numbers like Let's Twist Again, Nadline, My Ding-A-Ling, released in different periods, do rock joyfully in lust and romance, laughing off tension and pressure.

The last gig

Berry was a rocker who rocked till his last breathe. The rock legend's last big concert I remember is the 2010 Las Vegas concert he gigged at the age of 83. And he was still in the same old way, obliging with his trademark duck walk and lazily bent notes from his Gibson guitar. It's said that he picked up the technique of bending two guitar strings at once from guitarist T-Bone Walker and it became a rock n' roll talisman widely known as 'Berry lick'. At the gig, youngsters who were young enough to be Berry's great grandchildren sang along with timeless 'Chuck Berry' songs.

There is a restaurant at Blueberry Hills in St Louis where Berry performed once a month regularly until 2014. Regardless of past or present, his songs with lyrics speaking to the youth of the day remained fresh for decades, even today, wherever it is - at a restaurant or on a jam pad.


* Jyaneswar Laishram wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at ozzyjane(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on March 30, 2017.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Shakuhachi meets Pena, Manipur & Japan
  • Rally against Phaknung rape :: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #2 :: Gallery
  • Shirui Festival: Where is it heading
  • 2nd Northeast Fiesta at Jalandhar
  • Partnership between science & spirituality
  • Earning our rights and privileges
  • If press is presstitute then how about them
  • CATA Cine Award :: Gallery
  • Ngaineikim, Lamgoulen, Dilimpou :: eMing
  • Tributes paid on Khongjom Day #2:: Gallery
  • Laishram Birendrakumar recieve Padmashri
  • Position of Women in India
  • A forced load on little angels
  • Involvement of Asian Development Bank
  • Politics of power
  • Modi walking on elusive Naga peace: Book
  • 433 recruits from NE join Delhi Police
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Kei Onba Kom Gi Eshing :: Funga Wari
  • Sculpture at Ukhrul :: Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs Delhi United :: Gallery
  • Folk star Mangka goes global with Cla
  • Exploring pet grooming as career
  • The Shattered Visage :: Poem
  • LTC & travellling settlement
  • Workshop: Sustainable Skill Development
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Create two separate states out of Manipur
  • Northeast set to boost India's global IT
  • A word of caution for the BJP led Govt
  • For a better society, education is a must
  • April 14 : Another chapter of shame
  • 'Nura Pakhang'(Video) @Portugal:: Gallery
  • DIO inaugurated @Kangpokpi :: Gallery
  • 8th MU Annual Sports Meet #2 :: Gallery
  • The Real Purenba :: Folk Tales
  • Is cleanliness drive another publicity stunt
  • Time zone & daylight saving time for NE
  • Khongjom War observed at Delhi
  • A matter need to be pondered
  • Rongmei tribe recognition..withdraws
  • Seniors ask GoI to move peace process
  • People's Day likely from next month
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Mr India 2017- Ksh Bhaktakumar :: Gallery
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #1 :: Gallery
  • nuja (Nuja) :: Seireng
  • Paper trail of fake encounters in Manipur
  • Food & beverage of Zeliangrong #3
  • Let us switch on the living mode
  • Saying no to non-local appointment
  • Let adopted child knows the truth
  • Purul, Senapati :: 360 View Panorama
  • Play: 'It's a Myth' :: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #3:: Gallery
  • Relevance of ecotourism in the real world
  • World Malaria Day: End Malaria for good
  • The Bath :: Poem
  • Peeking through the FA pact
  • Leaking of the secret deal, another trick?
  • Tributes paid on Khongjom Day #1:: Gallery
  • Arm-Wrestling Championship :: Gallery
  • Curses come home to roost
  • Childhood hearing loss/deafness
  • Does India trade deficit with China matter
  • Silent protest against minors gang rape
  • B'pur citizens launch forum for development
  • Yes sir, yes sir syndrome
  • Cheiraoba Thabal @Singjamei:: Gallery
  • TBSFA Veteran Football :: Gallery
  • Saga of Herbert School Hostel
  • Disable for the disable person
  • Manipur : Charting the way forward
  • Uneasy Coexistence :: Poem
  • Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Rally
  • Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
  • Public Relations(PR) Day celebrations
  • Forest authority denies killing tiger
  • Education Minister needs to check
  • Sadar Hills Demand 2011-2017 : Timeline
  • Ethoi Oinam #1 (Actress) :: eRang
  • Angkor Wat , Cambodia #5 :: Gallery
  • Read all about Khongjom Day : History
  • Where Do Manipuris Come From ?
  • WW2 Bridge remain unnoticed by govt
  • I m not born to fulfill parent's dreams
  • 2nd Northeast Fiesta at Jalandhar
  • Filmmaker urged to make socially relevant
  • Bat for more people to people contact
  • Changing trend of journalism
  • Nura Pakhang : Music video
  • Cultural program @Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • puNsi (Punsi) :: Seireng
  • Faith, forgiveness & future
  • Rise of new hopes with BJP in Manipur
  • What is your keyword ?
  • Thanksgiving Function: NE people in Delhi
  • Condemns rape of two school children
  • Govt decision to make hindi compulsory
  • Expectations from the BJP led Govt
  • 6th Kangleipak Kang Trophy #2:: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #2:: Gallery
  • Victor Thoudam's It's A Myth :: Synopsis
  • The end of history & Manipur!
  • From Imphal with love
  • License to kill in Manipur
  • Jobs at JCRE Skill Solutions
  • Central Working Committee of TSA
  • Lajong NE Diaries cross 1 Million Views
  • Nagas in Cambodia
  • Addressing VIP culture : No to beacon lights
  • SC judgment to extra-judicial killings
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba @Pune :: Gallery
  • 8th MU Annual Sports Meet #1 :: Gallery
  • Career options after 10 + 2
  • Computerization of land records in Manipur
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba organized at Pune
  • Sattriya Dance: Assam's classical dance
  • Phynyx in Classic Nostalgia at Imphal
  • Beginning of the end of Cong ?
  • Please be serious on road accident
  • Thabal Chongba @Kolkata :: Gallery
  • CM N Biren visit to Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • National Mathematics Day :: Gallery
  • What Ails India's North East? :: Review
  • Commercialization of transgender event
  • Urges Manipur Govt to desist Mapithel dam
  • Mathematics Day at Oriental College
  • Ministers inspect Chandranadi Riverbanks
  • DG IIMC & ADG IIS visit Manipur
  • Manipur duo net London goal
  • Battle of Khongjom : 2 dates for 1 battle
  • Action appreciative, fishy in replacement
  • Governor Trophy Junior Tennis #2 :: Gallery
  • 7th UGC ROP must be Empowering ...
  • Imphal Talkies in my town
  • A new perspective of urban planning
  • The morning dew :: Poem
  • Assam Rifles Ex-servicemen Rally
  • Challenges of heading a coalition Govt
  • Cheirao-chingkaba :: Gallery
  • Tangkhul Dance @Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • 1st People's Day @Jiri :: Gallery
  • Some Canadian Ideas For School Education
  • Manipuri is a classical language
  • NEROCA FC :: Group Photo
  • Dont make it another Publicity stunt
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa -Apr 14 :: Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA 'martyrs' #1:: Gallery
  • CM Reception @Khwairamband :: Gallery
  • Wanted: Manipur River Protection Force
  • BSNL broadband condition in Tamenglong
  • April Showers - Sketches :: Poem
  • Websites launches on Digital Manipur
  • MHRD-University Ranking: Status of MU
  • Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Assam met CM
  • Against notice served to Dr. Kamei @JNIMS
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #4 : Ooba
  • 'Manipur Govinda' (Play) #2 :: Gallery
  • Superstition, oath & ordeal of Koren
  • CM N Biren visit to Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • Shumang Leela Day :: Gallery
  • Yaikhomba Mutum selected at Cambridge
  • Earthern Pottery- Thongjao #1 :: Gallery
  • Trip to Kamjong district :: Gallery
  • Hanubi & Hanuba : Downloadable Folktale
  • Career planning after Class X #2
  • CCMT: MTech Admission at NIT Manipur
  • Thousands welcomed CM in Ukhrul
  • Thoubal Keithel #2 :: Gallery
  • Cheirao-chingkaba [Mar 29] #3 :: Gallery
  • Thabal Chongba @Mysore :: Gallery
  • Nungshiba Khongel @Sylhet :: Gallery
  • Dance movement Takao Kawaguchi's way
  • The man who bridges Manipuri Meiteis...
  • Convention & Nungshiba Khongel at Sylhet
  • Shuri Kaso Phanat (Garlic Fest) :: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports #6 (Mar 16) :: Gallery
  • Landslide @Sirarakhong, Ukhrul:: Gallery
  • Meitei Pokpi :: Radio e-pao
  • Arambai Exhibition Show #1:: Gallery
  • Nongmai Kainou Chingsomba #2:: Gallery
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa [Mar 29] #2:: Gallery
  • Last rites of Sunder Gopal :: Gallery
  • Manipur raiding Burma (1600 - 1850)
  • Cheirao-chingkaba [Mar 29] #2 :: Gallery
  • Trip to Tamu, Myanmar #1: Gallery
  • Hangmila Shaiza: First Woman MLA
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #1 :: Gallery
  • Maphou Dam :: 360 View Panorama
  • Landscape of Manipur #5: Wallpaper
  • SPONSORED ADS