Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)

Taylor Hackford directed the Ray Charles biopic, Ray (2004) but have you seen his 1987 film Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)? I’m not a huge fan of Chuck Berry but I couldn’t resist watching this documentary when I learned that Keith Richards put together a group of musicians (Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Julian Lennon and Etta James) to celebrate Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday.

The film leads up to a celebratory concert at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre. The rehearsals leading up to this concert are great. One of the best scenes has Berry insisting that Ketih Richards play a note correctly. Richards keeps flubbing the note and Berry makes him play it again and again.

The film shows why Berry is credited with being the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He’s a musical genius, an innovator and a very savvy businessman. His musical creativity and playing ability is incredible. Even at the age of 60 he was doing his trademark ‘duck walk’ around Linda Ronstadt.

He can be very unpredictable — changing the key of a song at the last minute, or going on stage without a set list and just going for it. Don’t turn the tables on him though. When Taylor Hackford tried to ask him about his time in jail, Berry got angry and refused to answer the question. It wasn’t one of the scripted questions that he prepared for.

I was surprised to see Berry driving himself to and from his own shows. He insists on taking care of business before playing and always fulfills a contract. If he gets paid to play 12 songs, he plays 12 songs. Nothing more, nothing less.

Hackford does an excellent job at helping the viewer appreciate what Chuck Berry has done for American music and how important he is when it comes to the origins of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I couldn’t help noticing the physical similarities between Snoop Dogg and Chuck Berry but that’s another blog entry.

Chuck Berry turned 81 on October 18 and is still performing around the world.

Posted in DVD Reviews and Music at 2:08 AM