Chuck Berry’s Last Ride

Berry passed away earlier this year at age 90. But the rock and roll pioneer went out with a bang, with a new album of riveting songs.

Photo by Danny Clinch

“That’s called … titillating!” Chuck Berry exclaims from the stage at Blueberry Hill, a small club just outside of St. Louis and his favorite venue in the world. He bends guitar notes into balloon animals and even provides his own randy commentary, a wink to the boisterous hometown crowd, as he stomps through “3/4 Time (Enchiladas),” a song about life and how to live it. There’s no film of the performance, so we can only imagine what gestures accompanied his guitar solo. The octogenarian probably wasn’t duckwalking across the stage anymore, but he might have been sliding into his patented splits stance, his feet sliding further and further apart as though trying to take up as much of the stage as possible.

This live version of “Enchiladas” anchors Berry’s first collection of new material in nearly 40 years, simply titled Chuck and arguably the most anticipated album of 2017. It’s the final testament from one of rock and roll’s founding fathers, a man whose influence on American music and popular culture is so incredibly vast that it can only possibly be understated. He was rock’s first singer-songwriter, arguably its first auteur, certainly its first guitar hero, and the art form’s most acute and insightful commentator on class and race. Chuck engages with his history and legacy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not lively and thrilling and lascivious: looking to the past but grounded in the present.

In other words, nowhere on the album does Berry sound like a man in his 80s. Even on “Enchiladas” he sounds like a showman whose vitality and energy have not... Sign In to Keep Reading

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