"There's only one true king of rock 'n' roll," said Stevie Wonder. "His name is Chuck Berry." The St Louis bluesman, who has died aged 90, basically invented rock. Sure, there were other contributors: Bill Haley's northern band rock 'n'roll; Pat Boone and his New Orleans dance blues; and Berry's label mate at Chess Records, Bo Diddley. But no-one else shaped the instrumental voice and lyrical attitude of rock like Chuck. His recordings were lean, modern and thrilling. In the words of pop critic Bob Stanley, "they sounded like the tail fins on Cadillacs".
What are his best tracks?
He was the first to admit he drew inspiration from days of old. "There is really nothing new under the sun," he said in the mid-1980s tribute film Hail, Hail Rock 'n' Roll - citing the likes of T-Bone Walker and Charlie Christian as his forebears. Even the famous "Chuck Berry guitar riff", which opened hits like Maybellene and Johnny B. Goode, was lifted - by his own admission - from a Louis Jordan record. What he did with those influences, though, was something else. He gave country the bite of the blues, writing defiant odes to cars and girls at a time when rock lyrics were all Tutti Frutti and A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop. As Brian Wilson said, he wrote "all of the great songs and came up with all the rock and roll beats". "He laid down the law," added Eric Clapton. Here are seven of his most influential songs.
Chuck's first single sounded like nothing that had ever come before - and gave him a top five hit in the US a full year before Elvis made his debut. It was based on Ida Red, a 1938 hit for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - but was nowhere near as polite. Chuck adds a thunderous rhythm section and a scuzzed up guitar, while his lyrics lived out a teenagers' fast-car fantasy (even though he was in his mid-20s when he wrote it). "As I was motorvatin' over the hill, I saw Maybellene in a Coupe-de-ville / Cadillac rollin' on the open road / Tryin' to outrun my V-8 Ford." Disc jockeys Alan Freed and Russ Fratto were "encouraged" to play the song - by being credited as co-writers - and a career was born.
[ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN (1956)
"I wanted to play the blues," Chuck once told Rolling Stone. "But I wasn't blue enough. We always had food on the table." So he channelled his other frustrations into music. Roll Over Beethoven, widely believed to be a manifesto for rock and roll music, was in fact an affectionate dig at his sister, Lucy, who spent so much time at the family piano he couldn't get a look in.
Tributes paid to legendary Chuck Berry
Still, the swagger and the message - that Beethoven and Tchaikovsky had been rendered redundant by the sheer power of Chuck and his cherry-red Gibson - resonated with musicians all over the world. The song has subsequently been covered by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, ELO and even Iron Maiden.
SCHOOL DAY (1957)