Photo by Danny Clinch
Along with some of the most popular songs of the 20th century, Chuck Berry’s vast catalog contains more than a few buried gems waiting to be unearthed by curious listeners. Here are five little-heard favorites:
“Drifting Heart” (After School Session, 1957)
While he established the rules of rock and roll, Berry bent or broke them frequently. Drawing from the era’s calypso craze, “Drifting Heart” is a melancholy piece of rock & rhumba with Berry in full teen crooner mode, his voice light and sweet over the sauntering piano and dramatic island rhythms. So early in rock’s development, he’s already showing us just how gracefully rock can incorporate other sounds and styles.
“Go Go Go” (single, 1961)
Berry was never shy about touting his own accomplishments, and in this underrated sequel he toasts a rocker very much like Chuck Berry, “duckwalking on his knees and pecking like a hen.” But the best part is the last verse, where he tussles with some jazzbos: “Mixing Ahmad Jamal in my ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ sneaking Erroll Garner in my ‘Sweet Sixteen.’” He dreams of pop music with no genre boundaries, and it would take us a while to catch up to his vision.