When news of Chuck Berry's death broke, tributes to him began pouring out from nearly every band on the road. Most of those artists never paid tribute to Berry in such a way before, nor will they in the future.
Whether you play punk, funk, heavy metal, pop, country or some combination therein, you owe a debt to Berry. He was the father of rock and roll, but never reaped the same benefits of the generations that proceeded him. This left Chuck "a little prickly," as Keith Richards says.
Not that a one-off tribute to Chuck Berry is wrong, but all tributes are not created equal.
For the Rolling Stones, every show is a tribute to Chuck Berry, whether they mention it explicitly or not. This is in large part to Richards, one of Berry's greatest disciples.
Richards considered Berry a friend and his biggest influence. He wrote about his relationship with Berry for an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone.
The piece begins with Richards' recollection of his first meeting with Berry, in which Berry punched him in the face for touching his guitar.
"We saw him play in New York somewhere, and afterward I was backstage in his dressing room, where his guitar was lying in its case," Richards writes. "I wanted to look, out of professional interest, and as I'm just plucking the strings, Chuck walked in and gave me this wallop to the frickin' left eye."
Richards says Berry was in the right, and he didn't take personally his souvenir. The two became friends, and maintained a relationship for decades.
The two performed together many times and though Berry would occasionally banish Richards from the stage -- a gesture Richards took as a compliment -- there were moments when the two marveled at how in sync they were.
"There were other times between us when we're sitting around and rehearsing and going, 'Man, you know, between us we got that shit down,'" he writes.
As far as Berry's place among rock and roll guitarists, Richards sums it up perfectly.
"Even if you're a rock guitarist who wouldn't name him as your main influence, your main influence is probably still influenced by Chuck Berry. He is rock & roll in its pure essence."
Richards goes on to praise Berry's songwriting and stage presence. He recalls living with Berry for a few weeks in 1986. And how he reacted when he got the news that he was gone.
Read the full piece here.
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