Monday, November 2, 2009

Praise for Chuck Berry, the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll

As John Lennon once said, "If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry." Berry's advice (much like that of Strunk & White): "When you're writing a song, nouns and verbs will carry you right through."

November 02, 2009
Editorial Notebook: Memphis
Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" has been haunting me - the metrical precision of the lyrics, its emotional realism and, of course, the revelation in the penultimate line.

In the Times op-ed piece linked above, Klinkenborg mentions that "Memphis" reminds us how much country was in Chuck Berry's rock 'n' roll. Yes, Berry's first hit was a country parody, Maybellene. But he also wrote lyrics like ---

Milo Venus was a beautiful lass,
had the world in the palm of her hand.
She lost both her arms in a wrasslin' match,
to meet a brown-eyed handsome man.

And of course --

Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news.

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