Chuck Berry Top Hits: Best Songs to Remember Him By

Chuck Berry dead, Chuck Berry kids, Chuck Berry family

Chuck Berry performs during the 2012 Awards for Lyrics of Literary Excellence at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum on February 26, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.(Getty)

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry has died at the age of 90.

The decades-long career of the guitarist, singer and songwriter influenced an entire generation and had an indelible impact on rock and roll that is still being felt today. Berry has a new album, Chuck, scheduled to be released this year.

Here’s a look at some of the best, most influential songs of Chuck Berry.


1. Johnny B. Goode

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Released in 1958, Johnny B. Goode comes in at number seven on Rolling Stone’s top 500 greatest songs of all time.

The song’s lyrics, about a country boy who plays guitar and dreams of having his name up in lights, is clearly autobiographical; in fact, the lyric “country boy” was originally “colored boy,” but Berry changed it to make sure the song could be played on the radio.

Berry wrote a number of songs about Johnny B. Goode, but this was the one that made the biggest impression on popular culture. It was featured heavily in the movie Back to the Future; a climatic scene involves the lead character, Marty McFly, playing the song several years early and shocking the audience. The song was also used in the George Lucas film American Graffiti. 


2. Maybellene

Chuck Berry – MaybelleneChuck Berry (Charles Edward Anderson Berry – born Oct. 18, 1926, St. Louis, Mo., U.S. Died March 18, 2017) singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the most popular and influential performers in rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll music in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Raised in a working-class African-American neighbourhood on the north side of the highly segregated city of St. Louis, Berry grew up in a family proud of its African-American and Native-American ancestry. He gained early exposure to music through his family's participation in the choir of the Antioch Baptist Church, through the blues and country-western music he heard on the radio, and through music classes, especially at Sumner High School. Berry was still attending high school when he was sent to serve three years for armed robbery at a Missouri prison for young offenders. After his release and return to St. Louis, he worked at an auto plant, studied hairdressing, and played music in small nightclubs. Berry traveled to Chicago in search of a recording contract; Muddy Waters directed him to the Chess brothers. Leonard and Phil Chess signed him for their Chess label, and in 1955 his first recording session produced Maybellene (a country-and-western-influenced song that Berry had originally titled Ida Red), which stayed on the pop charts for 11 weeks, cresting at number five. Berry followed this success with extensive tours and hit after hit, including Roll Over Beethoven (1956), School Day (1957), Rock and Roll Music (1957), Sweet Little Sixteen (1958), Johnny B. Goode (1958), and Reelin' and Rockin' (1958). His vivid descriptions of consumer culture and teenage life, the distinctive sounds he coaxed from his guitar, and the rhythmic and melodic virtuosity of his piano player (Johnny Johnson) made Berry's songs staples in the repertoire of almost every rock-and-roll band. At the peak of his popularity, federal authorities prosecuted Berry for violating the Mann Act, alleging that he transported an underage female across state lines for immoral purposes. After two trials tainted by racist overtones, Berry was convicted and remanded to prison. Upon his release he placed new hits on the pop charts, including No Particular Place to Go in 1964, at the height of the British Invasion, whose prime movers, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, were hugely influenced by Berry (as were the Beach Boys). In 1972 Berry achieved his first number one hit, My Ding-A-Ling. Although he recorded more sporadically in the 1970s and '80s, he continued to appear in concert, most often performing with backing bands comprising local musicians. Berry's public visibility increased in 1987 with the publication of his book Chuck Berry: The Autobiography and the release of the documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock n' Roll, featuring footage from his 60th birthday concert and guest appearances by Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen. Berry is undeniably one of the most influential figures in the history of rock music. In helping to create rock and roll from the crucible of rhythm and blues, he combined clever lyrics, distinctive guitar sounds, boogie-woogie rhythms, precise diction, an astounding stage show, and musical devices characteristic of country-western music and the blues in his many best-selling single records and albums. A distinctive if not technically dazzling guitarist, Berry used electronic effects to replicate the ringing sounds of bottleneck blues guitarists in his recordings. He drew upon a broad range of musical genres in his compositions, displaying an especially strong interest in Caribbean music on Havana Moon (1957) and Man and the Donkey (1963), among others. Influenced by a wide variety of artists—including guitar players Carl Hogan, Charlie Christian, and T-Bone Walker and vocalists Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, and Charles Brown—Berry played a major role in broadening the appeal of rhythm-and-blues music during the 1950s. He fashioned his lyrics to appeal to the growing teenage market by presenting vivid and humorous descriptions of high-school life, teen dances, and consumer culture. His recordings serve as a rich repository of the core lyrical and musical building blocks of rock and roll. In addition to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Linda Ronstadt, and a multitude of significant popular-music performers have recorded Berry's songs. SOURCE: http://www.biography.com/articles/Chuck-Berry-9210488?part=1 PLEASE NOTE: I divided my uploads among multiple channels, Bookmark this link in your browser for instant access to an index with links to all of John1948's oldies classics. LINK: http://john1948.wikifoundry.com/page/John1948%27s+Youtube+Index2012-03-10T00:09:39.000Z

One of the earliest rock and roll songs ever released, “Maybellene” was recorded in 1955, and it was Berry’s first major hit.

“Maybellene” was inspired by the song “Ida Red,” and its lyrics describe a man chasing his unfaithful girlfriend down the road in his V8 Ford. It is potentially Berry’s most influential work, and it is a touchstone of rock and roll music.

The song has been covered dozens upon dozens of times, with the most famous cover coming from Elvis Presley.


3. Promised Land

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Written in 1964 for the album St. Louis to Liverpool, “Promised Land” is a distinctly American tune whose lyrics describe a journey across the United States, from Norfolk, Virginia to Los Angeles, California.

Berry wrote the song not while on a cross-country trip, but while in prison for violating the Mann Act.

Once again, the song has been covered dozens of times, with a particularly famous version coming from Elvis Presley.


4. You Never Can Tell

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From 1964, “You Never Can Tell” is another song that Chuck Berry wrote while in prison.

Its lyrics tell the story of two newlyweds who move into a new apartment. It ends with the couple traveling back to New Orleans, where their wedding took place, to celebrate their anniversary.

Though it was popular at the time, “You Can Never Tell” was repopularized in the 1990s when it was used in the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction; the song plays while Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace dance at Jack Rabbit Slim’s.


5. Roll Over Beethoven

Chuck Berry Roll Over BeethovenBand: Chuck Berry Album: The Best of Chuck Berry Title: Roll Over Beethoven2009-08-02T15:40:18.000Z

Released in 1956, “Roll Over Beethoven” is all about rock and roll – the new kid in town – coming in and replacing classical music; its title references the idea of Ludwig van Beethoven rolling over in his grave when hearing modern rock and roll music. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is also mentioned in the song’s lyrics.

Berry was inspired to write the song after hearing his sister repeatedly play classical music when he would prefer to hear rock and roll.

In 2003, “Roll Over Beethoven,” in addition to 49 other songs, were added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.


6. Rock and Roll Music

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From 1957, this is another one of Berry’s most well-known songs, and an early influence on the entire rock and roll genre.

When “Rock and Roll Music” was released, it hit number six on Billboard magazine’s R&B Singles.

Many will recognize the song from its cover versions, as The Beatles and The Beach Boys both did their own version of the song.


7. Memphis, Tennessee

Chuck Berry Memphis TennesseeChuck Berry performs 'Memphis Tennessee' at the BBC Television Theatre, London on Wednesday 29th March 1972. Backed by Dave Harrison – drums, Billy Kinsley – bass, Jimmy Campbell – guitar, Michael Snow – piano. HD2010-12-25T12:01:20.000Z

In 1963’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” the lyrics describe a man speaking to an operator trying to get in contact with a girl, Marie, who lives in “Memphis, Tennessee.”

It tells a surprisingly complex tale, with the audience being lead to believe that Marie is the man’s girlfriend, only for it to be revealed that she is actually his daughter, with it being implied that the man’s ex-wife took Marie away.

Once again, this is a song that The Beatles did a cover version of, in addition to The Who and Johnny Rivers.

Five years later, Berry wrote a sequel song, “Little Marie.”


8. Sweet Little Sixteen

Chuck Berry "Sweet Little Sixteen"Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. February 22, 1958. Re-posted by request.2012-11-25T19:17:28.000Z

From 1958, “Sweet Little Sixteen” was one of Berry’s most popular songs at the time, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100. This is the second highest position that a Berry song reached, with the first being “My Ding-A-Ling” at number one.

In addition, the song reached number one on the R&B Best Sellers chart.

The Beatles later performed their own version of the song, and The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was a song with new lyrics set to the music of “Sweet Little Sixteen.”


9. Run Rudolph Run

Chuck Berry – Run Rudolph Run (1958)Chuck Berry – Run Rudolph Run (1958)2009-12-23T05:47:53.000Z

“Run Rudolph Run” was recorded in 1958, and it has since become a classic Christmas song heard dozens of times each December.

At the time, however, the song only reached number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song is perhaps Berry’s most covered, with dozens upon dozens of artists doing their own version of it on Christmas albums.


10. Back In the U.S.A

Chuck Berry "Back in the USA"Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. July 18,1959. Re-posted by request.2012-11-25T19:17:14.000Z

Like “Promised Land,” “Back in the U.S.A.” is another distinctly American song.

In it, the narrator has returned to the United States from a trip abroad, and he celebrates all of the things that he missed while he was away, including the skyscrapers, the long freeway, the coast of California, and the shores of Delaware Bay

Among the cover versions, the most famous was one from Linda Ronstadt released on her 1978 album Living in the USA.


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