Archive for the 'Music' Category

Best to Decline Chuck Berry’s Offer to Use His Restroom

I was alerted by a relative who observed my online fawning over Chuck Berry that Chuck is not exactly a squeaky-clean character.  He has in fact had several brushes with the law (although I did mention his felony record in an earlier post).

So I will just offer up in my defense that I believe you can admire and appreciate a person’s accomplishments without condoning every action of their life.  Or to pull an example from recent headlines, one can admire Michael Vick’s football prowess without thinking he would be a good person to pet-sit your dog.

Often extreme people have some extreme flaws.  A quick survey of most historical figures should quickly demonstrate this point.  Heck, a review of most current actors under 25 today reveal nearly as many brushes with the law each as Chuck (think Paris and LiLo) – and they haven’t been around in show-business even 1/5 as long. 

Not to further dump on poor Chuck, but because I had such a difficult time finding any information about this period in his life.  I felt there might be some value in aggregating some information on Mr. Berry and this legal scrape. 

His most recent legal troubles-and those with the greatest potential to damage his reputation(although this time they resulted in no prison time)-occurred in 1990.  Yet, oddly, it is somewhat difficult to even find any reference to this episode.  Here are some of the few sites that even mention the controversy. 

Wikipedia’s coverage of Berry’s scandals
Archives of Chuch Berry news stories from 1990 
A reference to the Spy Magazine exposé on Chuck’s tapes 
A discussion of early Invasion of Privacy Cases 
It seems that an odd assortment of record company executives, complacent media, and people who quite frankly don’t even want to think about such things were somehow nearly able to remove all references to the existence of this story as completely as the Ministry of Truth did when it “rectified” information in the novel 1984.

Apparently the synopsis of the story is this:  

While the FBI and local authorities conducted a dubious raid on a non-existant “major cocaine shipment” in Chuck’s home in 1990, they found video tapes containing the images of 70 women who had been secretly taped using the restrooms in his home and restaurant.  Chuck denied knowing where the tapes came from but plead guity to a minor charge and reached a $1.2M settlement with the women. 

OK, fair enough, Chuck quite obviously was not a very good adherent of privacy rights (and a penalty was extracted for this), but he was an outstanding musician nonetheless.  No thanks Chuck, I’ll just wait and use the restroom when I get home.


Talent + Adversity = Excellence

I was watching a Chuck Berry Concert on TV the other evening – Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll! commemorating Chuck’s 60th Birthday in 1987. 

I am certainly no Music Historian, but to my limited experience it seems that Chuck single-handedly gave birth to Rock and Roll – or at the very least influenced it so profoundly that it would not exist in the same form without him. 

Watching and thinking about Chuck Berry and many much less known and appreciated Black artists of the 20th century set my mind to wondering: “What set them apart?” “Where did they come from?” “What recipe or cookbook could I use to create my own Chuck Berry?”

Lead Belly,  Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry – exactly how had some of the historically most oppressed people in the U.S. – Southern Blacks – transformed themselves into its most supreme talents and recreated American art and culture in their own image?

So I tried to come up with a formula for creating such a cultural phenomena:

Raw Talent + Adversity = (potential) Excellence

And I liked this simple, perfect formula/storyline – only one problem, some of these artists had not necessarily been directly oppressed but certainly were Middle Class children of those who had been oppressed.  So I tried another formula:

Raw Talent + Some Adversity + {Enough Economic Comforts To Support Arts} = (chance at) Excellence

No quite as compact perhaps but probably a little better model of reality.  Certainly the converse of the original formula is true:

Talent – Adversity = Mediocrity

For example:

John  Lennon – Climb to the Top = Julien Lennon

So here is my formula:

Child + Some Level of Creature Comforts & Leisure to think about Arts and Sciences + Adversity = next Cultural Phenom

So my plan is simple, move my family to San Dimas, CA, allow my son to fail a history exam, and then he can fulfill the prophecy foretold in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Sounds “most righteous dude.”

February 2019
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