Paul McCartney on Chuck Berry: ‘He Was a Magician’
In a reflective tribute to the late Chuck Berry, Paul McCartney honored the rock icon’s massive influence on the Beatles’ formative music. “To us, he was a magician making music that was exotic, yet normal, at the same time,” the singer wrote on his website. “We learnt so many things from him which led us into a dream world of rock & roll music.”
While admitting it’s “not really possible to sum up what he meant to all us young guys growing up in Liverpool,” McCartney pinpointed a few signature moments that demonstrated Berry’s genius as a guitarist and lyricist. “From the first minute we heard the great guitar intro to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen,’ we became fans of the great Chuck Berry,” he continued. “His stories were more like poems than lyrics – the likes of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ or ‘Maybellene.’”
The former Beatle also recalled meeting his rock idol in Berry’s hometown, St. Louis, during a tour stop. “It’s a memory I will cherish forever,” he said, calling him “one of rock & roll’s greatest poets.”
The Beatles covered one of Berry’s signature hits, 1956’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” on their second LP, 1963’s With the Beatles. They also added their own spin to “Rock and Roll Music” on 1964’s Beatles for Sale.
The Fab Four frequently paid tribute to Berry during their touring years. The 1994 Live at the BBC compilation includes versions of “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Carol,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “I Got to Find My Baby.”
Fellow Beatle John Lennon was an enthusiastic Chuck Berry fan throughout his life. In 1972, the duo performed together (alongside Yoko Ono) and sat down for an interview on The Mike Douglas Show.
After Berry’s death on Saturday at age 90, numerous high-profile artists penned tributes reflecting on his legacy. The Rolling Stones called him “a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer” and “most importantly … a master craftsman as a songwriter.” Bruce Springsteen deemed him “rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock & roll writer who ever lived,” while Brian Wilson noted that Berry “taught me how to write rock & roll melodies.”
Paul McCartney’s Tribute to Chuck Berry
“Chuck Berry sadly passed away over the weekend. He was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest poets. He will be missed but remembered by everyone who ever loved rock ‘n’ roll.
“From the first minute we heard the great guitar intro to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ we became fans of the great Chuck Berry. His stories were more like poems than lyrics – the likes of ‘Johnny B Goode’ or ‘Maybellene’. To us he was a magician making music that was exotic yet normal at the same time. We learnt so many things from him which led us into a dream world of rock ‘n’ roll music.
“Chuck was and is forever more one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest legends all over the world. I was privileged to meet him in his home town St Louis when I played there on tour and it’s a memory I will cherish forever. It’s not really possible to sum up what he meant to all us young guys growing up in Liverpool but I can give it a try.”