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Chuck Berry: The Autobiography [Paperback]

Chuck Berry
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jun 2001

'If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.' John Lennon

This astonishingly candid autobiography is the amazing life story of Chuck Berry, the man who created rock 'n' roll - written with all the flash, bounce, soul and humour that made million-seller classics of 'Johnny B. Goode', 'Memphis, Tennessee', 'Roll Over Beethoven', 'Reelin and Rockin', and the rest.

As the first black rock 'n' roll star, Chuck Berry saw race relations change from back-door service and near-lynchings for just talking with white women to more open but still strained relations between blacks and whites. His powerful accounts of racism and acceptance make fascinating, englightening reading.

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 2nd Revised edition edition (4 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571207545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571207541
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 684,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it "Chuck Berry".' John Lennon"

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stick to the day job 22 Jan 2011
By Gizmophobic VINE VOICE
Published in 1988 this is the story of the highly influential Berry told very much by the man himself. Unfortunately Chuck's insistence on going on his own with the book is a mixed blessing. Apparently he began it in 1959 only for other priorities to get in the way and resumed writing during a short prison stretch for tax evasion in 1979. You can't help wondering why the second delay, search for a publisher to put up with him perhaps?
In any case its a patchy effort. Much of it is written in the style of an earnest 16 year old. I've no doubt Chuck had other priorities at the time than English composition but if his proficiency as a guitarist/song writer/performer was at the same level we would never have heard of him.

The first half is by far the the best. He is genuinely engaging in his description of adolescence, early trouble with the law, (armed robbery no less, albeit with fake gun.), unrequited love, early sexual experience etc. Unfortunately he seems to have assumed his continued pursuit of such habits of peeping at unclothed ladies to be of more interest to us than his music. Once we get past his first hit: Maybellene -there is precious little insight into his music career. Instead we got told about his business interests, tax problems etc, and always there is his strange attitude towards sex. He devotes at least three complete chapters to various women and while he is largely coy about his 'relations', with them, he does provide several clear contenders for the worst sex writing prize,
e.g."Only the voluptouesness I had anticipated over the months I had known her mattered in those minutes. Little was heard except the sound of human pleasures passing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are still playing Chuck Berry tunes! 5 Jan 2011
In his brilliant introduction, Bruce Springsteen describes the day he played in Chuck Berry's backing band. "We were all really nervous. There wasn't supposed to be an extra guitar player, so I came up to him and I said, 'Gee, is it okay if I play?' and he said 'Yea, yea, you can play.' And I said, 'Well Chuck . . . ' and he said, 'What?' And I said, 'What songs are we going to do?' And he said, 'Well, we're going to do some Chuck Berry songs.' That's all he said."

Unlike just about every other celebrity autobiography, Chuck Berry wrote this book himself - and it is the better for it. He wrote it and his beloved wife Toddy and his secretary Fran read the proofs. No ghost writer penned this one under the strap line 'as told to . . .' No 'creative editor' rearranged the words to fit a house style. Charles Edward Anderson Berry wrote this book and he did so with the same zest, humour, poetry and soul he put into his songs. I read all 360 pages in one sitting and it was so good, I have begun reading it all over again.

Berry grew up in an all-black neighbourhood and never saw a white man until the neighbour's shed burnt down and white firemen came to put out the blaze. "Not knowing them to be Caucasian, I thought they were so frightened that their faces were whitened from fear of going near the big fire."

Music was baptist hymns with his mother Martha Banks Berry at the family piano. Piano lessons and Beethoven gave way to the guitar and 'Roll Over Beethoven.'

Fifty-five years ago, Charles Berry gave Leonard Chess a demo tape of a song he had recorded at home called Ida May. He had the idea that if he took a blues tune and put a speeded up 'hill-billy' (as C&W was then known) beat behind it, it would gain a wider appeal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chuck Berry: The Autobiography 23 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was very informative and well written completely by Chuck himself. I would recommend this book if you are a fan and even if you are not!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography As it Was Meant To Be 18 Jan 2009
By Sir Gerald Wordsmith - Published on
I have finally gotten around to reading Chuck's story, 20 years after it was written. I was moved by his honesty, by his lyricism, by his compelling story and complicated life. Blues and Rock and Race in America... not an easy subject to understand, nor a smooth journey. But Mr. Berry tells it as he lived it and as he remembers it, rough edges and all. I was intrigued by his writing style, as poetic and heartfelt, even obtuse at times, as the lyrics for his songs. One of the attributes I look for in an autobiography is, when I have finished reading it, if I have a better understanding of the person. Why he is like he is, what the forces were and are that shaped his life. In this book, my answer is an unqualified "yes." I'm glad he wrote it. I'm even happier I read it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! 22 Dec 2012
By Zach F - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The story of Chuck Berry's life told by the man himself.

This book could easily be renamed: Chuck the Great, Chuck the Sleazebag, Chuck: Public Enemy #1.

In his autobiography, Chuck Berry tells it all, from childhood antics, run-ins with the law, time in prison, and his life as a musician. His book leaves you thinking: wow, he did that? And, where would music today be without Chuck Berry?

Uncovering some of America's darkest truths, this book tells as much about race and America in the mid twentieth century and as it does Chuck and his music.

The best surprise in this book is: not only can Chuck sing and play guitar, he can write; and he does it well.

Definitely worth reading! I'm glad I did!
4.0 out of 5 stars Chuck Berry is Rock and Roll 28 May 2011
By Yellowkid - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like most autobiographies, Chuck's is rather self serving, and his writing style may dismay some, but hey, this is a rock and roll legend, not an English major.
Chuck writes about his early musical influences by performers such as Louis Jordan, his meeting with Muddy Waters, and how he came to write many of his hits. The origin of the famous "duck walk" is told and Chuck tells about his brushes with the law.
I am not alone in my opinion that he is the most important R&R figure of the twentieth century. I believe it was John Lennon who said that if you needed another name for R&R it could be Chuck Berry, most fans will thoroughly this book.
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