A key influence on the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Berry overcame racism to become a principal architect of rock’n’roll. Now he’s releasing a new album - From the Guardian
The irony, of course, is that the pioneer who helped end racial segregation in music grew up under the weight of Jim Crow and was often a target of the system.
By the time Berry released Maybellene, his first single, in 1955, he was a 29-year-old who had already served several years in state prison for stealing a car when he was a teenager, even when it was evident he was using a defective gun.
The experiences made Berry fiercely skeptical of promoters and record labels for the rest of his life and he developed a touring regimen of demanding cash upfront and only playing with local musicians he met moments before going onstage.
The British Invasion borrowed heavily from Berry’s songbook as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others recorded his songs on their earliest albums.
The new record has been in the works for years but word of the sessions, which took place at several studios throughout St Louis, hadn’t traveled far outside the city.