move over elvis, chuck berry was the real king of rock & roll

March 20, 2017

Over the weekend, the father of rock-n-roll, Chuck Berry, passed away at 90 and the media kind of downplayed the musician’s significance. Save for the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Berry’s music pioneered and defined the genre of rock-n-roll, something white folks can’t help but attribute to the white stars who ripped him off. Berry did more than “helped build” the genre of rock music, he established and defined it. Not Jerry Lee Lewis and especially not Elvis, who both took Berry’s sound and music and ran with it like they made it. The “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven” singer’s influences continue to reverberate throughout all of rock music, and beyond.

Regardless, we’d be remiss to ignore the allegations of sexual abuse and history of unusual and predatory sex acts involving minors and the unwitting. In 1961, Berry was convicted of transporting a 14-year-old Native American girl, Janice Escalante, across state lines for “immoral purposes”. Escalante told the police that she had a sexual relationship with Berry, who denied that claim but went on to say that he thought she was 21.

In 1989, Berry, who owned a restaurant called Southern Air in Wentzville, Missouri, was accused by a cook he employed, of videotaping women in the bathroom without their consent. Ultimately, sixty women came forward in a class-action lawsuit, claiming they too had been videotaped either at the restaurant or at the rocker’s “Berry Park” estate. These allegations never went to court but it did result in Berry settling and paying the group $1.2 million.