Sir Paul McCartney has described how the songs of veteran rock’n’roller Chuck Berry “hit us like a bolt of lightning” in a personal tribute to the legendary guitarist.
The former Beatles songwriter has dubbed the 87-year-old as “one of greatest poets America has ever produced” in an introduction to the first release of the guitarist’s complete studio recordings.
“When we first heard them they summed up the freedom of youth with a wit and wisdom unlike anyone else’s writing at the time,” says Sir Paul of Berry.
“We, the Beatles were hugely influenced by his music. Songs like “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Rock and Roll Music”, “Maybellene” and “Memphis Tennessee” are but a few of the great classics that came flowing from his pen,” adds Sir Paul.
“His guitar playing formed the basis for the styles of so many of us and his request to Beethoven to ‘roll over’ lead a revolution in music that continues to this day.”
The collection of Berry’s music – to be released next month by Bear Family on a 16CD set including 396 tracks - covers every studio recording the St Louis-born star ever made, from his debut with the Joe Alexander band in 1954 to his final recording in 1979, as well as such live recordings as the concert at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry in February 1972 that gave Berry his only British No 1 hit “My Ding-A-Ling”.
But it’s for his earlier work that the former hairdresser turned musician is best remembered, including “Johnny B. Goode”, voted the No 1 “Greatest Guitar Song of All Time” in a poll by Rolling Stone magazine and “No Particular Place to Go” which reached No 3 in the UK charts in 1964.
Sir Paul’s description of Berry as one of America’s great poets echoes Bob Dylan, who used the same accolade about Motown artist and songwriter Smokey Robinson.
But the “Tears of a Clown” star apparently became so fed up with hearing the tribute that interviewers were warned not to mention it when speaking to him. It can only be hoped Berry does not become so frustrated by Sir Paul’s tribute.
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