Tag Archives: Ringo Starr

"It's gotta be rock n' roll music if you want to dance with me."

50 years since the Beatles conquered America on the Ed Sullivan Show…and why we have Chuck Berry to thank for it.

"It's gotta be rock n' roll music if you want to dance with me."

“It’s gotta be rock n’ roll music if you want to dance with me.”

If you missed the CBS special, “A Grammy Salute to the Beatles” on Sunday night, you’re in luck – they are rerunning it tonight (February 12) at 8:30PM. Set your DVRs if you are otherwise occupied (say, with the Olympics).

Although the choice of performing artists may have been questionable in some cases (yes to Maroon 5 but Imagine Dragons – OK, I like them, but with all the talent in the room couldn’t they have found someone with more gravitas to handle “Revolution”?), the music rules. No question about it. (Especially when Joe Walsh and/or Dave Grohl is involved – not to mention Peter Frampton in the backing band!)

And when Paul and Ringo sing together it is truly magical. I saw Ringo with his All-Star Band a few years ago and had a wonderful time. Just being in the same room  (yes, it was a 10,000 seat arena but I was in the third row on the floor) with a Beatle was thrilling. When it came time for “Yellow Submarine,” Ringo introduced it by saying, “if you’re not singing along with this, you’re in the wrong place.” We all sang that silly song and loved every minute of it. “Sky of blue, sea of green, in our yellow submarine…”

I’m old enough to remember watching the original broadcast of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1963. It was one of those historic moments, similar to the moon landing and 9/11, that I will always remember where I was. Seeing them on TV made it clear why all the fuss was being made over them. We knew they had changed music; what we didn’t know what was that, really, they would change our world.

The Beatles have never been shy about citing American musicians as their influences. Primary among them was Chuck Berry. In the words of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Chuck was inducted with the first group of honorees in 1986, “Chuck Berry is the poet laureate of rock and roll. In the mid-Fifties, he took a fledgling idiom, born out of rhythm & blues and country & western, and gave it form and identity. A true original, Berry crafted many of rock and roll’s greatest riffs and married them to lyrics that shaped the rock and roll vernacular for generations. He has written numerous rock and roll classics that have been covered by multitudes of artists and stood the test of time. In all essential ways, he understood the power of rock and roll – how it worked, what it was about and who it was for. ”

And it wasn’t only the Beatles who were listening. Again, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: “Indeed, Berry’s repertoire of licks and lyrics from the Fifties and early Sixties paved the way for the British Invasion. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Animals and many other U.K. acts covered Berry’s songs while developing their own styles. The Stones continued to include Berry’s songs in their repertoire throughout their career. Even the Beach Boys, youthful architects of West Coast surf and pop songs, turned to Berry for inspiration. Their 1963 hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” appropriated the melody and rhythm of “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Berry successfully sued for copyright infringement and won a songwriting credit.”

Thank you to the Beatles for creating the soundtrack of our lives and songs that will be cherished for generations. It seems fitting that the Beatles first took to the U.S. airwaves in the month that came to be the time for the celebration of Black history. So here’s a tip of the hat to you, Mr. Berry, for making it all happen, and for recognizing the talent of your protégés.