Chuck Berry is by common consent the biggest influence on rock and pop music of the 20th century. While Elvis Presley and The Beatles may have been bigger commercial attractions, without Berry they would have not changed the course of popular culture. Although he was already thirty by the time he hit the big time in the mid-50s, Berry helped drag black music across the racial divide and invest rock 'n' roll with its key ingredients. He helped make the guitar a lead instrument in rock music, wrote lyrics that were unparalleled in their twisty wordplay, and turned rockabilly and hillbilly music on their heads by syncing them into the standard 4/4 rock 'n' roll beat. On top of all this Berry brought a new level of showmanship to music, helping draw an enthusiastic new white audience and turning them on to the sounds that would help define rock 'n' roll and later rock music. A difficult man with a chip on his shoulder a mile wide, Berry would later attract the wrong sort of headlines for his parsimony and unprofessional attitude. None of this should detract from his peerless string of hit singles in the 50s and 60s, which will endure as long as humanity retains a pulse.
Followers: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave Edmunds
Influenced By: T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Charles Brown...