The sbcltr list of iconic Berry covers that launched music careers
When he died on the 18th of March, Berry was 90 years old and just a few weeks short of releasing his debut single in more than 4 decades. John Lennon once said that if Rock and Roll had to be given another name, it would be called Chuck Berry. Paul McCartney said that Berry’s song hit him and the Beatles, “like a bolt of lightning.” Bob Dylan called him the “Shakespeare of Rock Music.” When Joe Perry was reviewing Berry’s name for a greatest artist list (Rolling Stone), he said, “That feeling of excitement in the pit of my stomach, in the hair on the back of my neck: I got more of it from Chuck Berry than from anybody else.”
It is no secret that most of us associate Elvis as the king of Rock and Roll, but in true essence, the genre truly belongs to Chuck Berry. Like Keith Richards told Rolling Stone, “Chuck had the swing, there’s rock, but it’s the roll that counts.” In a career that spanned over six decades with hits such as, Johnny.B.Goode, Maybelline, Memphis, Sweet Little Sixteen, Berry was the first to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, AC/DC and even Jerry Lee Lewis, were all influenced by him in a way. In 2011, in his autobiography Life, Keith Richards said that, “The beautiful thing about Chuck Berry’s playing was it had such an effortless swing. None of this sweating and grinding away and grimacing… just pure, effortless swing, like a lion.”
To give you a rough idea of exactly how deeply did Berry impact other iconic musicians and help you understand the breadth of his influence, sbcltr made a playlist of the best Berry covers, performed by some very iconic musicians themselves.
Plug in. Tune out.
John Lennon: You Can’t Catch Me
The song was first recorded and released as a single in 1956. Almost 10 years later, the Rolling Stones, recorded their version of the song, so did John Lennon in 1975 for his LP, Rock ‘n’ Roll. Lennon’s version amalgamates Come Together and You Can’t Catch Me. Both the songs have interesting trivia and history together, apparently, in 1969, Berry’s music publisher sued Lennon for copyright infringement because of the melodic similarity between the two. The Beatles’ song had also used some of the lyrics of Berry’s song, “here come old flat-top.” The case was settled out of court eventually.
The Beatles: Johnny.B.Goode
In January 1958, Berry recorded a song that would end up becoming one of Rock and Roll’s most recognizable numbers. Johnny.B.Goode, became so famous that the Carl Sagan, included Berry’s recording of the song on NASA’s, Voyager Golden Record, the song was meant to represent rock and roll, it was one of the four American songs to be included. When the Beatles recorded their cover in 1964 at the Playhouse Theatre in London, they did it for the BBC radio show, Saturday Club. By then they had already recorded two more Berry songs including, Roll Over Beethoven, saying that he was a favourite among them.
The Rolling Stones: Come On
Two years after the original’s release, the Rolling Stones decided to give their own spin to Come On, and released it as their debut single. Not only did their version of Come On, manage to stand on its own, but it also launched their illustrious career in 1963.
ACDC: School Days
The hard rock band covered the song in 1975 for their Australia only album, T.N.T. In this cover, Ben Scott’s cheeky vocals are as much of a treat as the beautiful riff that is worked to the perfection.
Jimi Hendrix: Johhny.B.Goode
When the guitar god covered the song, he called it a “loose jam kind of a thing.” It also became the name of his 1986 posthumous album. His version of the song was also called “the definitive version of the definitive guitar anthem,” by music critic Robert Christgau.
One of the most covered songs of Berry, including five recordings by The Beatles, an attempt by The Who, Paul Anka, Dave Berry, Bo Diddley to name a few. The best cover version unarguably belong to Faces and more specifically to Rod Stewart, who gives a gut wrenching disappointment of youth a voice in his glorious interpretation of the 1959 song.
Nina Simone: Brown Eyed Handsome Man
The social political rock song got a makeover of a lifetime when the high priestess of soul decided to lend it her voice.