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#ThrowbackThursday: “The Duality of Chuck Berry”.

Chuck Berry "Chuck" Dualtone Records
  – Chuck Berry "Chuck" Dualtone Records

by Sean Smith

On March 18, 2017, the music industry lost one of the pioneers of rock and roll, Chuck Berry. The singer, songwriter and iconic guitarist passed away at his home surrounded by friends, family and loved ones.

The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winning icon turned 90 years old on October 18, 2016. In celebration of the milestone Berry announced that in 2017 he would release a new album. It would be his first original album to be released since Rock It in 1979. The new album, called simply Chuck, is still slated for release and is currently available for pre-order. It is tentatively scheduled for a June 16, 2017 release date. In the wake of Chuck Berry’s death, the first single for the now posthumous album has been released. It is entitled “Big Boys” and the sound of the track is very much in line with his previous work of decades past.

 

Chuck Berry 

“Big Boys”

From Chuck 

Dualtone Records

Chuck Berry will be largely remembered in the music business for his blend of  rhythm and blues, bluegrass, country and popular music styles. Berry’s sound was quintessential early rock and roll.

Fans will forever link him not only with being a forerunner of rock and roll, but also as the artist who offered up such classic hits as “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Maybellene,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “My Ding-A-Ling,” and “Johnny B. Goode.”

Chuck Berry 

“Roll Over Beethoven”

Chess Records

Chuck Berry 

“Maybellene”

From Chuck Berry Is On Top

Chess Records

Chuck Berry 

“No Particular Place To Go”

From St. Louis to Liverpool 

Chess Records

Chuck Berry 

“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”

From After School Session 

Chess Records

Chuck Berry 

My Ding-a-Ling” (Live In London 1972)

From The London Chuck Berry Sessions

Chess Records

Chuck Berry 

“Johnny B. Goode”

Chess Records

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Johnny B. Goode”

From Back to the Future: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack (1985)

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/MCA Records

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Cadillac Records Trailer (Biopic About Chess Records Featuring Mos Def As Chuck Berry)

Sony Music Films/Parkwood Entertainment/Tri Star Pictures

However, Chuck Berry will also be remembered by many for some negative aspects of his life that took place away from the studio and stage. Berry had a slew of run-ins with the law and served a couple of stints in jail. As a teenager he car-jacked a person at gunpoint. He was convicted in 1964 of transporting a minor across state lines when he brought a 14-year-old girl from Mexico to Missouri. He reportedly had relations with that girl during the trip. He was also convicted in 1979 of tax evasion. He was charged with assault after being accused of hitting a younger women at a hotel in 1987. During a 1990 drug raid on his estate, Berry was charged for possession of marijuana. However, during the raid a large stash of pornography was discovered. In that collection were a number of video tapes that Spy Magazine reported showed underage girls and women using a restroom in a Berry owned property. Child abuse charges were brought against Berry but were later dropped during a plea bargain. However, a class action lawsuit was filed by women who were reportedly taped resulting in a settlement that paid the women $830,000.

To put it plainly, Chuck Berry was a complicated man. A very talented musician, but also a man that to say the very least showed questionable character at times in his life.  While it is important to recognize his contributions and accomplishments in the music industry, it is also important to remember that like every other human being walking this earth he was far from perfect.