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YMMV / Chuck Berry

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  • Covered Up:
    • Dave Bartholomew originated "My Ding-a-Ling" in 1952. Berry's hit live version Covered Up his 1968 studio version ("My Tambourine").
    • "Memphis, Tennessee" is unusual since everyone knows it's a Chuck Berry song, but it didn't become a hit until Lonnie Mack's 1963 instrumental version and the 1964 Johnny Rivers take (which used Mack's arrangement). Basically every version of the song since then uses the Mack/Rivers arrangement instead of Berry's original.
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  • Epic Riff: All over the place. Berry's tunes were some of the first to be based on catchy riffs, often played in a call and response pattern with the vocals.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • His original 1959 version of "Memphis, Tennessee", with its rhythm guitar emphasizing off-beats and a busy bass line, sure sounds a lot like early Reggae. His vocal on the song also sounds a little like Paul Simon at times.
    • Louis Jordan's 1949 hit "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" was obviously very influential on Berry, especially that opening guitar solo. Berry frequently credited Jordan as one of his musical heroes, and eventually did a Cover Version of "Ain't That Just Like a Woman".
    • The lyrics of "Downbound Train" are a slightly rewritten version of an anonymous poem that dates to the early part of the 20th century.
  • Periphery Demographic: He became a popular choice for Country Music Cover Versions starting in The '60s. Buck Owens ("Johnny B. Goode"), Waylon Jennings ("Brown Eyed Handsome Man"), George Jones ("Maybellene", with Johnny Paycheck), Emmylou Harris ("You Never Can Tell") and Mel McDaniel ("Let It Roll (Let It Rock)") all had Top 10 hits with Berry covers. He even got inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
    • The similarities between The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Sweet Little Sixteen", and The Beatles' "Come Together" and "You Can't Catch Me", were strong enough to be the subject of legal action:
      • "Surfin' U.S.A." was published by Arc Music (Chuck Berry's publisher) from the start, even though it was ostensibly a Brian Wilson composition, due to the publisher pressuring his father Murry into giving them the copyright. With the exception of early pressings of the "Surfin' U.S.A."/"Shut Down" single and the Surfin' U.S.A. album, the song was and is still credited solely to Chuck Berry. Despite this, according to Carl Wilson, Berry loved the Beach Boys' adaptation and told them so when he met them in Copenhagen.
      • "Come Together" was the subject of a lawsuit by notorious music businessman Morris Levy (who, by then, owned the copyright to Chuck Berry's songs) against John Lennon in 1973. As a settlement, Lennon offered to record at least three songs published by Levy for his next album. The rough mixes of that album were bootlegged by Levy via telemarketing under the name Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits. A legal battle then ensued between Levy and Apple Records, forcing the bootleg release off the market and Apple to release the official version (Rock 'n' Roll) two months earlier than planned.
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    • As "Surfin' USA" was to "Sweet Little Sixteen", "Sweet Little Sixteen" was to "Route 90" by Clarence Garlow.
    • Berry acknowledged that "Maybellene" was a rewrite of the old country song "Ida Red".
    • "It's My Own Business" is one to "Mind Your Own Business" by Hank Williams.
    • The melody of "You Never Can Tell" might have been inspired by Mitchell Torok's 1953 Country Music novelty hit "Caribbean" (which crossed over onto the pop charts six years later).
  • Values Dissonance: "Little Queenie," which describes a girl who's "too cute to be a day over seventeen." Note that he was actually arrested for his relationship with a 14 year old girl.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: 1970's "Tulane", about hippie drug dealers tangling with the law, got accused of this in some quarters, though some listeners were just happy to hear him return to his Signature Style. Bob Seger was impressed enough to borrow the concept of a Berry-style song about illegal activity for "Get Out of Denver" four years later.

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