Chuck Berry Robert Christgau - Essay

Robert Christgau

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Chuck Berry is the greatest of the rock and rollers…. But Chuck Berry isn't merely the greatest of the rock and rollers, or rather, there's nothing mere about it. Say rather that unless we can somehow recycle the concept of the great artist so that it supports Chuck Berry as well as it does Marcel Proust, we might as well trash it altogether.

As with Charlie Chaplin or Walt Kelly or the Beatles, Chuck Berry's greatness doesn't depend entirely on the greatness of originality of his oeuvre. The body of his top-quality work isn't exactly vast, comprising three or perhaps four dozen songs that synthesize two related traditions: blues, and country and western. Although in some respects Berry's rock and...

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