This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #128: Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry.
Whether it is for an ad campaign or an election, one of the most important factors in predicting the success of your endeavour is a good slogan. A good slogan manages to capture the essence of an entire political campaign or a product line or a new movie, all in a few well-chosen words. Sometimes, a good slogan can even resonate beyond the marketing aspect of why it was first created. I don’t know about you but, I cannot remember any of the slogans that Hillary Clinton used in her campaign but, I sure as heck remember what Donald Trump’s campaign slogan was. A good slogan is a priceless treasure when it comes to launching a new movement and that is exactly what “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry was all about. Please allow me to explain.
It is hard to believe that there was a time, not all that long ago, when Rock n’ Roll was not at all a factor on mainstream media broadcasting. Those, like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and others, who played a form of the Blues that contained the earliest foundational beats of what became Rock n’ Roll, did so out of the public eye. They played in speak-easys, honky-tonks, church basements and so on. But, luckily for all of us, Chuck Berry grew up knowing that there was something fundamentally special about the type of music he loved. But, in order to launch a new musical movement and help to bring it into the mainstream, he knew it needed a battle cry…a slogan, if you will. This is what “Roll Over Beethoven” came to be.
Chuck Berry grew up in a house that had a piano in its’ living room. He, also, grew up with a sister who loved music as much as he did. However, she channeled her energy in a more socially-approved manner…she opted to study classical music and thus, she developed into a classically trained pianist. So, in order to gain access to his family’s piano, Chuck Berry had to battle with his sister; when she won, the house filled with symphonies and sonatas. When Chuck won, the house filled with Blues and Soul. Eventually, Chuck Berry tired of this constant battle with his sister. In his mind, the time had passed to be letting long-dead composers rule the airwaves of the nation, as well as, define what “proper” music was meant to be. In order to counteract this imbalance, Berry wrote the song, “Roll Over Beethoven” which was a slogan in a song. Berry’s tune acted as a battering ram upon the door of those who refused to acknowledge the emerging sound of The Blues and the first inklings of Rock n’ Roll. “Roll Over Beethoven” became a mindset adopted by those who followed in Berry’s wake. It was time to push those long-ago musical masterminds aside and make room for those creating new music that was more reflective of the times in which real people actually lived. The new sound Berry was promoting was, in his mind, something that the old composers would probably disapprove of and, as a result, they would be “rolling over” in their graves.
In any case, someone had to lead the way by capturing the attention of the nation and, the world, with a catchy slogan that summed up a brand new musical attitude in a few, well-chosen words. “Roll Over Beethoven” did that for Chuck Berry, as well as those who came after, such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, who were both big fans of the man who grew up with the piano in his house. I am sure there must have been some lively conversations about the nature of music around the Berry Family dining table. For now, we have Chuck Berry to thank for helping to officially launch the era of Rock n’ Roll music.
So, let’s get to listening to one of the most effective marketing campaigns ever devised. Here is, “Roll Over Beethoven” by Mr. Chuck Berry. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Roll Over, Beethoven” by Chuck Berry, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Chuck Berry, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.