I was in my early teens when I first heard “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets, “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis and “School Day” by Chuck Berry. America was pounding us in the U.K. with a new sound and new faces, and we were loving it!
I’ve always felt that I was fortunate to have been born into a genuine era of change in music–we seemed to jump from Frank Sinatra to Elvis and Chuck overnight–and even though Elvis, as a solo singer, was my initial inspiration, Chuck was the man with the guitar and the lyrics that gave life and meaning to the new wave that will always be referred to as rock ‘n’ roll.
Since those heady days, there have been a number of guitar-playing singers, and I would bet all of them would pay homage to Chuck. (To those of you under the age of 30 or even 40 and who play in a band: Chuck Berry is essential listening.)
There was no one like Elvis. But there was definitely no one like Chuck Berry.
Richard is an award-winning British musician and philanthropist
This appears in the April 03, 2017 issue of TIME.
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