With all apologies to Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Buddy Holly, the true King of Rock and Roll died today.
Chuck Berry passed away today in St. Louis at the age of 90. For many of us, at least, among the young adolescent coming-of-age-males-in-America from 1955 forward, he was the man who wrote the soundtrack of almost all our lives. Beyond issue differences based upon the perceptions so effected by race and region, it was Chuck Berry who played the universal chord of what we were going through in our daily extant lives out here in the trenches of Nowhere-But-Trying-To-Get-Somwehere City, USA. – And it was Chuck Berry who had a song for every passion, striation, or nose-out-of-joint situation we may have found ourselves battling at the time.
It started in 1955, when some of us who were then 17, and Chuck’s first big hit, “Maybelline,” came rolling over the hill:
As I was motivatin’ over the hill
I saw Mabellene in a Coup de Ville
A Cadillac arollin’ on the open road
Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford
The Cadillac doin’ about ninety-five
Bumper to bumper, rollin’ side by side
Why can’t you be true
Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true
You’ve started back doin’ the things you used to do
We were trying to get up to the challenge. The early emotional fragility of teenage love (Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true) often made it hard to keep track of how we stood with the special girls in our lives. On the other hand, we guys also understood that it was a whole lot easier to get a measurable self esteem score based on which of us dudes had the fastest running machine out there on the road.
The Cadillac pulled up ahead of the Ford
The Ford got hot and wouldn’t do no more
It then got cloudy and started to rain
I honked my horn for a passin’ lane
The rainwater blowin’ all under my hood
I knew that I was doin’ my motor good
Oh, Maybelline! If only I could gain a trust in you – that matched up well with what I knew – 0f what my Rocket 88 would damn-sure do!
The Monkey Business of Life
Working in the filling station, too many tasks
Wipe the windows, check the tires, check the oil, a dollar gas, ahh!
My filling station moments all happened as an empl0yee on the 12-hour Saturday shift at the A&P Store on Lawndale near 75th that always preceded a night of social fun. A lady customer asked me late one Saturday afternoon where she might find our A&P all day suckers. “You’re talking with one of them,” I said. My boss heard my answer. I think he would have fired me too if that lady hadn’t sized up the situation and interceded. “Oh, don’t be too hard on the young man, sir” she said. “It’s nice to run into somebody with a sense of humor every now and then.”
Brown “Haired” Handsome Man
Two, three the count with nobody on
He hit a high fly into the stand
Rounding third he was headed for home
It was a brown eyed handsome man
That won the game; it was a brown eyed handsome man
I remember going to bat once in a senior CYO summer game. Men on 2nd and 3rd. My girl sitting behind the screen plate at the CYO Field near Austin High School in the East End. The Berry song was rolling through my brain as I walked to the plate. Life does not always follow the script. I never got to a 3-2 count, I swung hard at a first pitch and squibbed it down the 3rd base line. Managed to beat it out for a swinging bunt single with one RBI, but got no high fly into the stands to win the game. That’s OK. I never had brown eyes anyway.
The School Days Rainbow Deliverance
It was all right there. In the words. In the beat. In the notion. And in the motion.
Get your work done and there’s something special waiting for you.
You simply have to find a way to make your work passionate and playful to get there.
But it you listen to the beat of Chuck’s songs long enough, you will get his message.
And you will get to keep that jewel as the find of a lifetime.
Millions of us once called it Rock and Roll. – And some of us still do.
Thanks for liberation from what could have been a much less enjoyable ride through life, Chuck Berry!
Up in the mornin’ and out to school
The teacher is teachin’ the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You studyin’ hard and hopin’ to pass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone
Ring, ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunch room’s ready to sell
You’re lucky if you can find a seat
You’re fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom, open your books
Keep up the teacher don’t know how mean she looks
Soon as three o’clock rolls around
You finally lay your burden down
Close up your books, get out of your seat
Down the halls and into the street
Up to the corner and ’round the bend
Right to the juke joint, you go in
Drop the coin right into the slot
You’re gotta hear somethin’ that’s really hot
With the one you love, you’re makin’ romance
All day long you been wantin’ to dance,
Feeling the music from head to toe
Round and round and round we go
Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feelin’ is there, body and soul.
Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry!
Publisher, Editor, Writer
The Pecan Park Eagle