In recent days, the great Chuck Berry has received many well deserved accolades with everyone from Paul McCartney to Dave Grohl adding their voices to the chorus giving praise to The Godfather of Rock and Roll. But don’t sleep on the songwriting.
Mostly overlooked for his verse, Chuck could spin a novella in the structure of 2:30 Rock and Roll song. If you want proof, just listen intently to “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “Down Bound Train,” or “House of Blue Lights” just to name a trio.
As far as cover versions go, neither The Beach Boys nor The Rolling Stones would likely exist, as we know them anyway, without Chuck Berry. And, The Beatles certainly paid homage to the duck walker in their early days. The number of artists that cover Chuck Berry songs is long, eclectic, and awesome. Here are five of our favorite cover versions.
Brown Eyed Handsome Man
Paul McCartney did a fun, almost head scratching, zydeco version on Run Devil Run, Lyle Lovett takes it low and a bit slower on his Release Me album, and Nina Simone even rocks it up a bit with her rendition. But, the winner is: TajMahal
Roll Over Beethoven
With all due props to the spacey neo Classical riffs on the Electric Light Orchestra version, and the Rocking vibe from the Beatles effort that proves that The Beatles could have been one hell of a Rock and Roll band if they put their guitars to it, the winner here his Mountain with their 70’s Rock riffage courtesy of Leslie West and company. Don’t Bogart that joint.
Rock and Roll Music
Lot’s of cool and eclectic choices. The Beach Boys version from Beach Boys 15 Big Ones is for purists only. The Beatles version is pure gold with John Lennon firmly cementing his position as the pure Rock and Roll singer of the group. But our favorite is from REO Speedwagon and Nine Lives. The boogie-woogie piano and harmonica riff mid-song is worth the price of admission alone.
Around and Around
There is really no need to mention any other version here. The Rolling Stones epic bom-diggity, drop the mic, it’s over rendition on 12X5 is the only cover version you really need to hear. Mick’s turn on “Under the Boardwalk” from the same record is worth some ear time as well.
Johnny B. Goode
Don’t ever listen to another version of this song. The Chuck Berry version is the Holy Grail of Rock and Roll.