Chuck Berry Tribute

This page was first posted to www.1960sailors.net in tribute to Chuck Berry when he was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2000. Now, it's time to take another look at it. On March 18th, 2017, Chuck Berry, the musician so many called the "father of rock 'n' roll" — and rightfully so — died at the age of 90.

          

                

Honored by the

Kennedy Center,

and the OHS Class of 1960

Sailors Salutes Him

WASHINGTON, DC, DECEMBER 27, 2000: Tonight, the nation watched as CBS broadcast the 23rd annual Kennedy Center Honors, considered by most to be the highest form of recognition bestowed by our nation on a performer. Among the five recipients of the coveted tribute for the year 2000 was our generation's very own Chuck Berry (Click here for video Berry tribute starts at 4:00 on the footage meter).

In an article following the announcement in August of the honorees, a Washington Post reporter wrote:
  

 "With the selection of Berry, 73, the center is at last firmly acknowledging the artistry of rock-and-roll and its enormous impact since the 1950s."

  

The event was held in the Kennedy Center's grand Opera House on December 3, 2000.  Walter Kronkite introduced the names of the honorees to the distinguished guests and, in doing so, said Berry was "quite simply one of the 20th century's most influential musicians." Kronkite thanked him for "making us laugh, making us dance and making us

happy."  Actor, Sam Waterston, said, "He gave us

 


Our hero, with the other honorees of 2000, (clockwise
from upper left) Placido Domingo, Angela Lansbury,
Clint Eastwood and Mikhail Baryshnikov

thrill-hungry teens a language of our own and the music to fire a revolution."

Goldie Hawn introduced Berry. She said she had grown up listening to classical music and promised her father that it would always be her favorite music that she would never like rock 'n' roll. Then, she said, she turned 13 (in 1958) and things started happening to her. Hawn said that Berry had “reached out to a generation” and, together with Elvis Presley, inspired her to pursue her dream. She called him the "poet laureate of rock 'n' roll" and then, Hawn got a broad smile and a thumbs up from the ever cool Mr. Berry when she told him that no one ever said it better than he did when he sang, "Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news."  

Everyone knows Chuck Berry "could play a guitar just like a-ringin' a bell."  And everyone knows he is generally regarded as both the greatest guitarist and the greatest lyricist of rock 'n' roll's pioneer generation and was the first in a long line of rock 'n' roll singer-songwriters and one of the best of all times. Quite appropriately among the very first round of inductees in 1986 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his influence on others that followed is widely acknowledged and undeniable.

According to newspaper reports, published on December 4th, 2000, the day after the actual Kennedy Center event:   

  • "Berry, 74, was cited for his role in helping to create the hard-charging rock 'n' roll sound that has dominated  popular music for five decades."
                                                                                                              — the Los Angeles Times
     

  • "But perhaps the most far-reaching toast of the evening [which was unfortunately edited out of the television broadcast] came from composer Marvin Hamlisch, who toasted Berry as the 'one figure who, as much as anyone, can lay claim to the invention of rock-and-roll. As a boy in New York,' he said, 'I was taught the music of the three B's Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. But as a teenager, I lived with the fourth B Chuck Berry.' Noting Berry's early fusion of country and western guitar riffs with jazz and rhythm and blues, Hamlisch said, as an American, 'I'm as proud of Chuck Berry as I am of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.' At the end of the Berry tribute, Little Richard and an all-star ensemble paid musical homage to Chuck Berry … [and] brought the whole hall to their feet, including the president [Clinton]."
                                                                                                                — the Washington Post

As the audience filed out, you could almost hear the mental loop playing in everyone's heads: "Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news."

Chuck, in 1957,  you said, "Maybe someday, your name will be in lights." But did you ever dream of anything like this

* * * * * *

John Lennon once said, "If you would try to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry."  So began a movie documentary tribute to Chuck Berry in celebration of his 60th birthday entitled Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll that was released in 1987. It featured a number of brief interviews of other rock 'n' roll giants in which they commented about their admiration for Chuck. A couple of notable examples follow:

  • "My  favorite song from Chuck is all of 'em . ... He's my favorite rock artist, and he always have [sic] been."                                                                                                                      Little Richard
      
  • "He's the king of rock 'n' roll. ...Chuck Berry is the greatest. He's the Hank Williams of rock 'n' roll."  
                                                                                                                      Jerry Lee Lewis
     
     

According to the internet music streaming service, Pandora Radio, (no author credit given):

"Of all the early breakthrough rock & roll artists, none is more important to the development of the music than Chuck Berry. He is its greatest songwriter, the main shaper of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists, and one of its greatest performers. Quite simply, without him there would be no Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, nor a myriad others. There would be no standard "Chuck Berry guitar intro," the instrument's clarion call to get the joint rockin' in any setting. The clippety-clop rhythms of rockabilly would not have been mainstreamed into the now standard 4/4 rock & roll beat. There would be no obsessive wordplay by modern-day tunesmiths; in fact, the whole history (and artistic level) of rock & roll songwriting would have been much poorer without him. Like Brian Wilson said, he wrote "all of the great songs and came up with all the rock & roll beats." Those who do not claim him as a seminal influence or profess a liking for his music and showmanship show their ignorance of rock's development as well as his place as the music's first great creator. Elvis may have fueled rock & roll's imagery, but Chuck Berry was its heartbeat and original mindset. "

 

The Class of 1960 offers its sincere thanks to you, Chuck Berry. We are deeply grateful to you for helping to make our teenage years so very special and for entertaining us and keeping us rocking yes, and keeping us young since 1955!   

On October 18, 2016, Chuck Berry turned 90 years of age!! He brought us all so much joy, and now he is gone. But he left so much for us to treasure and remember him by.

Chuck, you were the man ¾  the undisputed grand old man of rock 'n' roll!!

 Rock on,

Johnny B. Goode!

 

                

 

    

In the opinion of many, the obviously autobiographical Johnny B. Goode was the finest among Chuck Berry's outstanding works. Click on the links below for other examples of Chuck Berry's recordings (more than anyone else's) featured on this site:

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