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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Chuck Berry invented an art form. His genius is undeniable, and as my friend Captain X has observed, it is pretty notable that the America he wrote about was substantially barred to him for most of his life.
Also, his catalogue is much deeper than you think. He wrote Chuck Berry songs all the time, and the worst of them was his only #1. On learning of his death A remarked that he was ahead of his time, but I don't know if that's quite right: I think he was exactly of his time, at least in terms of his art. Perhaps he was out in front of the acknowledgements and recognition he merited. If you want to understand Rock and Roll you need to start with Chuck Berry, then Bob Dylan. This video is probably Chuck performing my favorite Chuck Berry song, but if you asked me tomorrow I might tell you my favorite is "Memphis, Tennessee", or "Back in the USA". Maybe "You Never Can Tell". Or....

It was probably never easy to be Chuck Berry. He spent more time in reform school, jail and prison than most great geniuses, and yet his art was optimistic and joyful. In all the ways that matter he overcame the harsh realities of his background and life and became transcendent.

Read what Greg Tate has to say:
Toni Morrison points out that one of the truly amazing things about the Black experience in America is that bestial treatment did not produce a bestial people. The history, generosity, and charismatic capacity of African American music can be readily viewed as a triumph of the civilizing strains of our music over the savagery perpetually visited upon our communities. Tony Bennett reminds us that any civilization is judged by what it gives to the rest of the world. America, he says, can say it gave Louis Armstrong to the world, a statement to which I’d say, Louis, yes, but we need also be as proud that we gave ’em Chuck Berry too. Matter of fact, thanks to Carl Sagan embedding “Johnny B. Goode” in the cosmic archives of earthly civilization on Voyager 1, we can also say America gave Chuck Berry to the universe. Roll over my brother Beethoven, tell Lord Sun Ra the news.

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