The death of Chuck Berry in 2017 triggered many passionate celebrations on the internet, all aiming to remember the figure that most of all defined rock ‘n’ roll, starting from the 50s. And that’s a good thing, usually the best way to allow younger people to get to know the myths of the past. In this case, one of the most important characters in the history of rock.
One of the things that better explains the character of Chuck Berry, however, dates back to 1987: It’s the movie Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll directed by Taylor Hackford, a documentary focused on two concerts of 1986, where Chuck Berry performed with a number of famous personalities such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Bobby Keys, Linda Ronstadt and many others. In the video below you can see a scene from that movie, showing Chuck Berry’s perfectionism, well known as a tough man to work with.
In the video Keith Richards proposes to Chuck to play his hit Carol as the main guitar, and Chuck initially agrees. As already seen from the first few seconds of the video, however, the execution of Keith Richards doesnt satisfy Chuck, who interrupts Richards several times, explaining him in detail how all parts of the riff had to be performed. In the end Chuck Berry takes control of the group and completes the performance as main element.
The film is a great example of music cinema. Many could see in that scene a certain bitterness that Chuck Berry could have had against Keith Richards, related to the fact that he founded The Rolling Stones on all the riffs “stolen to him”. Many other knows that it’s just a rumour, and a great mutual respect ran between Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones, but for sure it’s true that the Stones (together with many other British rock bands) owe a huge legacy to Chuck Berry, often getting much more popularity than what Berry himself received in life. Who knows, maybe in that scene, a bit of that jealousy came out.