Chuck Berry Michael Lydon - Essay

Michael Lydon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Heady days, that first lindying era of rock. In retrospect it is astonishing how fast it happened…. Which means that the music filled a gargantuan need that neither artist nor audience knew existed…. Neither music nor phenomenon alone, rock 'n' roll is a mass sensibility.

That sensibility not only came from nowhere and spread everywhere, but was so natural to those who shared it that it was impossible to explain…. For that sensibility was not just sensuality, speed, and rebellion, but also black—how much still isn't clear, but more black than anyone was willing to admit in 1955. The rock 'n' roll sensibility meant that on some level white kids who were trying to find their own identity were identifying passionately with black music, doing it barely consciously but therefore without any self-conscious distance. And not just identifying passively, but creating a new identity between white and black.

The medium of the process was the music, which from the first was a racial and musical hybrid. (pp. 14-15)

In short, a black-white music and white kids who said, "Yeah, that's how I feel" That was rock 'n' roll. (p. 15)

No one fully grasped what was happening, but Chuck Berry seemed to have an idea. Of all the musicians, he was the one who best recognized these new American kids, and he loved and encouraged them. With an extraordinary leap of empathy, he knew and...

(The entire section is 462 words.)