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BEING THERE: Beach Slang @ Union Transfer

March 27th, 2017

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

Even if you’re agnostic about Beach Slang’s brand of super-catchy, radio-ready punk anthems, there are two reasons that you’d still lose out if you took a dare not to enjoy their show. First, James Alex, Beach Slang’s mop-topped frontman-singer-songwriter-guitarist, bleeds openly with a genuine joy and gratitude for the living he gets to make doing what he does, and seems not to be able to help but share that joy and that gratitude effusively for all who hear him play. There’s no irony or cynicism, no arrogance to accompany his newfound celebrity and national attention. For Alex, it’s clear this is a dream realized and hard-won, the fruit of a couple decades of love and labor, of dedication, of an unflagging passion for professed heroes and for all that music means to him.

The second reason is, Beach Slang lays it all down. Alex offers 110% of himself, thrashing his pale hollow-body Epiphone and windmilling his way through the night. It’s a stagecraft perpetrated with the confidence of a band that loves their work and is comfortable in their shoes. A band that’s earned the right to practice the long tradition of rock ‘n roll theater and that does so in earnest, and without pretense.

Saturday night at Union Transfer, Beach Slang led the sold-out crowd through a blazing homecoming set featuring a dozen or so singalongs for would-be fans even if not many of them knew all the words yet. Beach Slang is in the midst of a national tour with headliners Minus The Bear. Early on in the set, Alex conceded Beach Slang’s genre disparity with headliners Minus The Bear, expressing his thanks for the “open minds” with which the headliner’s fans have been receiving his band’s music on this tour. In fact, if you had come last night with a bit of a chip on your shoulder for the sometimes-self-indulgent tendencies of pop-punk, you might still have been warmed over by Alex’s deliberate, even self-aware appeal for your affection.  “We’re Beach Slang,” he declared, “and we’re here to punch you in the heart.” Word. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER

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REVIEW: The King And I @ The Academy Of Music

March 26th, 2017

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charlie-flowerShowBY CHARLIE C. THEATER CRITIC The King and I, in a few words, spoils audiences with its grandeur. The Lincoln Center Theater’s production of this Rogers & Hammerstein classic proudly boasts rich and elegant set designs, wisely casted actors, and a poignant but deeply affecting ending that will stick with you long afterwards. It felt wildly similar to the similar product of Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music, in terms of its cheerful and uplifting protagonist and timeless, soaring melodies. The marriage of all of these elements crafted an unforgettable experience that is difficult to place in words.

The King and I tells the story of a newly widowed English schoolteacher who traversed a cross-continental difference to reach the principality of Siam, where she held dearly the promise of proper housing gifted to her by the King if she mentored the many children of the promiscuous sovereign. Anna has been assigned to teach the royal family the etiquette and language of those in England. Almost immediately, this aforementioned promise was forgotten by the king as the teacher, who goes by the name of Anna Loenowens, was forced to reside in the palace.

Almost immediately, tensions build between Anna and the King due to their clashing personalities. Never before has the King come across a woman who speaks her mind and is not completely deferential to him. Anna has never before come across a man who restricts himself to the egregious belief that females are inferior to men. A friendship and respect soon develops between the two as their tempestuous relationship blossoms, and Anna grows to love the children she teaches. But soon enough, in order to alter their view of the imperialistic king, Anna and the King must make haste to prepare a dinner for English diplomats.

The portrayals of these characters were delightful. Laura Michelle Kelly performance as Anna perfectly animated the depth of her character with an impeccable voice fit for such a production. Jose Llana, as the King, brought to life the humorous potentate, emphasising the droll characteristics of the man while also never failing to provide emotional depth to his naturally intimidating character. And the rest of the cast were similarly delightful to watch, most notably Joan Almedilla’s portrayal of Lady Thiang.

I find it funny how, after seeing only one performance I have fallen in love with this musical in the age of musicals such as Hamilton or Waitress flooding broadway. Any description of this production is an understatement, due to surprisingly humorous moments and immaculate portrayals of raw emotion. All in all, a solid cast and appealing and engaging musical numbers rendered this performance of The King and I a masterfully crafted and worthy rendition of a classic musical.

THE LINCOLN CENTER THEATERS’ PRODUCTION OF ROGERS & HAMMERSTEIN’S THE KING & I NOW PLAYING @ THE ACADEMY OF MUSIC THROUGH APRIL 2ND

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charlie is a thirteen year old esteemed serial procrastinator, a voracious reader, a musical obsessive, and wants a cat despite an allergic brother.

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CINEMA: Rust For Life

March 24th, 2017

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T2 Trainspotting (2017, directed by Danny Boyle, 117 minutes, U.K.)

Buskirk AvatarBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC
Trainspotting was a fun lark in 1996, so why not bring the boys back together 20 years later to catch up?  Drawing partially from Irvine Welsh’s literary sequel, Porno, director Danny Boyle takes the dare and ties off for another hit of drugs, banter, and hi-jinks.  Reuniting the 40-something Scots (Rent Boy, Sick Boy, Begbie, and Spud) the film wants to be a knowing look at middle-age but seems to be just as confused as its characters on the question of why is exists.

Spud (Ewen Bremner) is certainly asking that question when we first catch up with him. Addicted to cocaine, losing his wife and child, Spud literally has a plastic bag over his head when Rent Boy (Ewan McGregor) walks back into his life. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Rent Boy ran off with his old friends’ loot at the end of the original, making what seemed at the time a pretty good judgment that his self-destructive friends would never escape the dead end life in Edinburgh but maybe he has a shot. Apparently, Rent Boy blew that shot in Amsterdam (he’s vague about what happened) and now he’s back in his home town, with nothing better to do than look up his old pals and ask forgiveness.

The film’s problem isn’t in continuing these characters — along with Rent Boy and Spud, we quickly catch up with Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) now a pimp/blackmailer and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) who has escaped from prison and is still full of violence. The problem comes from putting the guys through the same paces they trod in the original. It seems that the obvious challenge inherent with revisiting these miscreants is in the big difference between a misspent youth and a misspent middle-aged life. It is problem that the script lets go untackled. Instead, like some long-in-the-tooth grunge band rehearsing for a reunion tour, the boys plow right ahead onto their oafish crime and mischief, following the old words and melody and hoping nostalgia will do the rest.

Once back in his childhood bedroom (supposedly kept intact by his loving Mum) Rent Boy plays some old records and lifts the phonograph needle only a beat into “Lust For Life” (just one of many shout-outs to the original) but throughout the film the sped-up editing rhythms and blasts of semi-hip rock remain to let us know we’re watching a Brand Trainspotting movie (if we’re really to take the “T2” title as proclamation of franchise status). After Rent Boy has some punch-riddled reunions he’s joining the guys for a new scheme to re-pay his debt to them and now the scam is back on. You might remember Rent Boy’s “Choose Life” rant from the original? Again he goes back and does a middle-aged remake of it here because, you know, we may be old but we’re still angry! And the gang is still outside the law too, although you might feel less affection for 40-something credit card thieves and brothel owners than you did for 20-something smash-and-grabbers because at least maybe the kids will straighten themselves out before they turn into career sociopaths like these guys.

Admittedly, all these actors are fun to watch (Kelly MacDonald is back as Diane too, making the transition from jail-bait seductress to scolding legal councilor about as fun as it sounds) and occasionally there’s a smile to be had and yet the film also can’t help itself from going for some corny slapstick (see Spud get knocked-out in a boxing ring, falling backward stiff-backed like he’s in a Don Knotts/Tim Conway comedy) or giving the audience a good elbow in the ribs after an obvious gag. And who asked for a subplot about Begbie discovering Viagra? By the ending, we mainly feel Boyle’s condescension to the characters, after all, whatever middle-aged blues he shares with the characters, the director’s career trajectory can only be seen as an enviable success. Boyle might have felt an urge to return to scene of his youthful heady success but he’s refrained from bringing any hard-fought wisdom to share with his floundering working class characters. Not that he has to go full-on Mike Leigh but just laughing at the gang’s expense and watching Ewan dance to that very familiar old Iggy song somehow doesn’t seem enough to justify this return.

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

March 23rd, 2017

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Artwork via THE NEW YORKER

THE NEW YORKER: Mercer is the co-C.E.O. of Renaissance Technologies, which is among the most profitable hedge funds in the country. A brilliant computer scientist, he helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms. But he has never given an interview explaining his political views. Although Mercer has recently become an object of media speculation, Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, who formerly served as the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said, “I have no idea what his political views are—they’re unknown, not just to the public but also to most people who’ve been active in politics for the past thirty years.” Potter, a Republican, sees Mercer as emblematic of a major shift in American politics that has occurred since 2010, when the Supreme Court made a controversial ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling, and several subsequent ones, removed virtually all limits on how much money corporations and nonprofit groups can spend on federal elections, and how much individuals can give to political-action committees. Since then, power has tilted away from the two main political parties and toward a tiny group of rich mega-donors.

Private money has long played a big role in American elections. When there were limits on how much a single donor could give, however, it was much harder for an individual to have a decisive impact. Now, Potter said, “a single billionaire can write an eight-figure check and put not just their thumb but their whole hand on the scale—and we often have no idea who they are.” He continued, “Suddenly, a random billionaire can change politics and public policy—to sweep everything else off the table—even if they don’t speak publicly, and even if there’s almost no public awareness of his or her views.” Through a spokesman, Mercer declined to discuss his role in launching Trump. People who know him say that he is painfully awkward socially, and rarely speaks. “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks,” an acquaintance said. “It’s probably helpful to be highly introverted when getting lost in code, but in politics you have to talk to people, in order to find out how the real world works.” In 2010, when the Wall Street Journal wrote about Mercer assuming a top role at Renaissance, he issued a terse statement: “I’m happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody.” According to the paper, he once told a colleague that he preferred the company of cats to humans.

Several people who have worked with Mercer believe that, despite his oddities, he has had surprising success in aligning the Republican Party, and consequently America, with his personal beliefs, and is now uniquely positioned to exert influence over the Trump Administration. In February, David Magerman, a senior employee at Renaissance, spoke out about what he regards as Mercer’s worrisome influence. Magerman, a Democrat who is a strong supporter of Jewish causes, took particular issue with Mercer’s empowerment of the alt-right, which has included anti-Semitic and white-supremacist voices. Magerman shared his concerns with Mercer, and the conversation escalated into an argument. Magerman told colleagues about it, and, according to an account in the Wall Street Journal, Mercer called Magerman and said, “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist. That’s ridiculous.” Magerman insisted to Mercer that he hadn’t used those words, but added, “If what you’re doing is harming the country, then you have to stop.” After the Journal story appeared, Magerman, who has worked at Renaissance for twenty years, was suspended for thirty days. Undaunted, he published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, accusing Mercer of “effectively buying shares in the candidate.” He warned, “Robert Mercer now owns a sizeable share of the United States Presidency.” MORE

FRESH AIR: According to our guest, Jane Mayer, one of the most influential figures in America today is a man most of us have never heard of. Mayer’s new piece in The New Yorker focuses on Robert Mercer, a wealthy hedge fund manager with very conservative – and as you’ll hear – somewhat eccentric views. Mayer writes that Mercer and his daughter Rebekah played critical roles in President Trump’s successful campaign last year, were influential in the transition to the White House and remain connected to key players in the West Wing. The Mercers have been major backers of Breitbart News and Steve Bannon’s other projects for years, and they were influential in getting Bannon and Kellyanne Conway into leadership positions in the Trump campaign. Jane Mayer is a staff writer for The New Yorker who’s won numerous honors including the George Polk Award. Her latest book now out in paperback is “Dark Money: The Hidden History Of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Right.” MORE

RELATED: The Blow It All Up Billionaires Are Destroying America

PREVIOUSLY: ZERO DARK THIRTY: A Q&A With The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer

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Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind_hr

 
WASHINGTON POST: From his boundary-pushing game shows to his strange claims of being a CIA assassin, Chuck Barris lived large. The host of “The Gong Show” and the creative force behind “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game” and many other game shows died of natural causes Tuesday at 87 in Palisades, N.Y., his publicist announced. Barris, who was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Bala Cynwyd, and went to Lower Merion High and Drexel Institute of Technology (now University), loaded ’60s and ’70s television with game shows, and later made waves when in an autobiography he claimed to be an assassin for the CIA, which the agency flatly denied. This book was adapted into a feature film “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” MORE

FRESH AIR: Chuck Barris, the creator of “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game” and “The Gong Show” died yesterday at his home in Palisades, N.Y. He was 87. Barris called himself the king of daytime television. His critics called him the king of schlock. At one, point he was generating 27 hours of programming a week, mostly in daytime game shows. Barris invented a game show format that played on contestants’ personal relationships. Some of the laughs came from watching people publicly embarrass themselves as they revealed things about their private lives. “The Newlywed Game” had couples competing against each other. Husbands and wives were separated and asked questions about their marriages. “The Gong Show” was Barris’ intentionally tasteless answer to the talent show format, showcasing painfully bad performers. Barris sold his company in 1980, reportedly for $100 million. He later wrote an autobiography, “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind,” in which he claimed to have been an CIA assassin, an assertion the CIA called absurd. That book was turned into a 2002 film directed by George Clooney. Here’s a clip from his first show, “The Dating Game,” which gave a young, single contestant the chance to cross-examine a panel of eligible bachelors or bachelorettes and choose one for a chaperoned date. MORE

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THE KOLARS: Dizzy

March 23rd, 2017

The Kolars play Boot & Saddle on Wed. April 5th with Sammy Brue.

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GIVING BACK: Me & Petey Greene

March 23rd, 2017

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MaxAbramsBY MAX ABRAMS You can count on one hand the number of black men who have both gone to jail for armed robbery and been a guest at the White House at the president’s behest — and still have a few fingers left over. Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr. is a member of that exclusive club. Greene started disc jockeying in jail and eventually grew to national acclaim for his radio and Emmy Award-winning television show, becoming a progressive and seminal voice of a generation and a movement. Petey Greene dropped out of school in 9th grade. When he was 16 he enlisted in the army and went to war for six years, in far away Korea, and served as a medic. After returning from the war Greene went home to Washington D.C. and wound up serving 10 years in prison for armed robbery. For most men — especially African American men in the 1960s — this would mark the end.

But Petey Greene was not most men.

Greene got himself released from prison early for good behavior after talking a suicidal prisoner down from a water tower. Unknown to prison authorities, Greene persuaded his friend to fake a suicide attempt so he could “save” him, and it worked. After his release, Greene used the skills he learned in prison to pave a road that would eventually lead him to become not only a famous DJ and television performer, but an authority on civil rights and racial issues. After the MLK assassination, Greene’s voice and wisdom played a big part in defusing the mass riots that were plaguing the nation. If you are interested in learning more about Petey Greene’s remarkable life I recommend Talk To Me, the 2007 biopic starring Don Cheadle.  talk_to_me_ver3

Petey Greene’s trajectory may be one of extremes — his is a rags to riches story like no other — but the possibilities it hints at are some of the driving forces of American life. Greene’s prison-to-presidents trajectory marks the unlikely potential of social mobility in America in much the same way Michael Jordan — who did not make the cut for his high school basketball team but — went onto become one of the all-time greats of the NBA. It’s unheard of. The word unlikely doesn’t do it justice (no pun intended). Even today, more than 50 years after Greene went to jail, the forever dooming label of ‘felon’ smothers any hope for success, opportunity, or personal growth. This is what the Petey Greene Program seeks to change. Named after Greene and his inspiring life by long time friend Charles Puttkammer, the program places volunteer tutors (mostly college aged) into correctional institutions to provide the incarcerated with an education. Basic math and English are focuses here, but the end goal is something much more: GED’s, high-school diplomas, college, a work ethic, a distraction, an opportunity, a chance. You get the picture. Instead of wasting time just waiting to be released, the program offers those who seek self-improvement and a better future a realistic chance to do so.
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BOB DYLAN: Stardust

March 23rd, 2017

PITCHFORK: Bob Dylan doesn’t give many interviews. To make up for lost time, he sat down for a massive Q&A with author Bill Flanagan, which was posted on his website tonight. The piece runs over 8,000 words and covers a wide range of topics. He tells a story about meeting Frank Sinatra and reveals that he watches “I Love Lucy” on his tour bus (“all the time, non-stop”). He casually mentions that he and George Harrison skipped out on a recording session with Elvis Presley. When asked about some recent favorite records, he mentions Iggy Pop’s 2012 album Aprés. Naturally, he also discusses his new triple album of covers, Triplicate, which is out March 31 via Columbia. It’s a fascinating, life-spanning conversation. MORE

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REVIEW: Mount Eerie A Crow Looked At Me

March 22nd, 2017

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Death is real. It took Phil Elverum’s wife as he held her in his arms in the back bedroom of their home in Anacortes, Washington. French Canadian artist and musician, Geneviéve Castrée, died of pancreatic cancer on the morning of July 9, 2015, a year and a half after giving birth to her and Elverum’s daughter. The window open, Elverum shared the vibration of his love’s death rattle, and it enveloped him in the dissociative fog of trauma. Mount Eerie’s new album A Crow Looked At Me follows Elverum in the months after her death, as he waded through the minutia of everyday life. Much of Elverum’s music released as both The Microphones and Mount Eerie has confronted the inescapable fragility of life, and its place within the cyclical natural world. These themes are readily apparent in “The Moon” from The Microphones 2001 The Glow, Pt. 2, in which Elverum searches for closure, concluding, “Like the moon, my chest was full//Because we both know we’re just floating in the same space//Over molten rock, and we felt safe and discovered our skin is soft//There’s nothing left except certain death//And that was comforting at night out under the moon.”

Looking at lines like these after Geneviéve’s death, they assume a prophetic quality, as if the abyss that Elverum was always alluding to feeling within himself and observing in the natural world had been sending him indecipherable distress signals about Geneviéve’s tragedy to come. On track 3, “Ravens,” Elverum fleshes out his arcane connection with the natural world as he sings of sensing that two ravens he watched flying into the October sunset were an omen, “but of what I wasn’t sure.” He goes on, suggesting, “You were probably inside//You were probably aching, wanting not to die.” Elverum grounds the album with temporal roots, explicitly mentioning dates, “It’s August 12, 2016//You’ve been dead one month and three days.” When the album isn’t betraying the conventions of time and space, it shares Elverum’s  paralyzing confrontations with the post-mortem mundane: throwing out Geneviéves toothbrush, closing the window in the room where she died, collecting the mail that continued to arrive for her after she’d gone.

Elverum’s idiosyncratic phrasing has never been as earnest or cutting as it is on A Crow Looked At Me. His voice, like a fusion of clarinet and french horn, speak-sings over sparse beds of music made up of succinct acoustic guitar strums, minimal drum machine, plush piano, and deliberate bass that trudges the way the listener imagines Elverum trudging through the world in the months he wrote these songs. Elverum’s music has always externalized the internal that he experienced within himself and observed in the natural world. The death of Geneviéve, though, erased the boundaries in Elverum’s world. In a statement he made about the album, he said: “The idea that I could have a self or personal preferences or songs eroded down into an absurd old idea leftover from a more self-indulgent time before I was a hospital-driver, a caregiver, a child-raiser, a griever. I am open now.” Make no mistake, A Crow Looked At Me is an exhausting album, but it transcends the normal boundary between musician and listener, offering a life-enriching experience that few albums can. It’s easy to distract ourselves with the burdensome truth of our own mortality. So natural to pretend like we will be the ones to finally escape death’s grasp.  With its unreserved authenticity, A Crow Looked At Me tears away the blinders we put on to hide from the terrible reality of our vulnerability, pushing listeners to grab their loved ones while they’re here, because, fuck, death is real. - DILLON ALEXANDER

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HIGH TREASON: The FBI Is Investigating The President Of The United States & His Cronies For Collusion With The Russians During The Campaign

March 21st, 2017

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LOS ANGELES TIMES: After more than five hours of testimony by FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers to a House committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, we can point to five key takeaways. Most of it is bad news for the Trump administration.

1) Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that not only was the FBI investigating Russian interference in the campaign but he also dropped this bombshell: FBI agents are probing potential “coordination” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This investigation could lead to criminal charges.

Comey’s exact statement (emphasis added):

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

2) There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower by President Obama or anyone else. On March 4, Trump tweeted explosive accusations that his predecessor had ordered wiretapping of his phones in Trump Tower.

Comey refuted the claims in this way:

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey testified. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.” He later pointed out that no president has the authority to order a wiretap. It requires a warrant from a special panel of judges. MORE

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INCOMING: Something Wicked This Way Comes

March 20th, 2017

T&E TourFlyer

 
PREVIOUSLY: WRECKLESS ERIC: A Q&A With Eric Wareham, Philly Homeboy & Exactly One Half Of Tim & Eric

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THE TAKEAWAY: Shit Just Hit The Fans

March 20th, 2017

Forget all the deceptive Spicer spin and perjured @Potus misdirection, this is all you need to know.

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SPOON: Never Let Me Down

March 20th, 2017

Title track from the 1987 David Bowie album.

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RIP: Chuck Berry, Founding Father Of Rock N’ Roll

March 19th, 2017

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NEW YORKER: Berry, who died Saturday, at the age of ninety, was a proud and difficult man. He was also a genius. As a player, as a songwriter, and as a performer, he was a master of invention, transforming the rolling rhythms of Louis Jordan and the guitar figures of T-Bone Walker into the rhythmic foundation of half the rock songs you’ve ever heard. Rooted in the blues and with an ear for American country music, Berry blew things up and out with his first hits; he helped to create another form. Chuck Berry was to rock music what Louis Armstrong was to jazz—a foundational figure; if not quite singular, then as close as it gets.

“If you had tried to give rock and roll another name,” John Lennon once said, “you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’ ”

Lennon—like Richards, like Bob Dylan, like the Beach Boys—was among the countless second-generation white musicians who understood the immensity of their debt to Chuck Berry. Their music would not have been possible without him. When the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg, much of their set was filled with Chuck Berry songs. To this day, it’s what any fledgling kid with a guitar wants to learn: “Little Queenie,” “Nadine,” “Jo Jo Gunne,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” He is in everyone’s ear. Berry inflects nearly all CHUCK BERRYof rock and roll. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: In 1955, Mr. Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Mr. Berry’s song “Ida Red.” A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Mr. Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Mr. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Mr. Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend, and we jumped on it.” The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious. Mr. Berry articulated every word, with precise diction and no noticeable accent, leading some listeners and concert promoters, used to a different kind of rhythm-and-blues singer, to initially think that he was white. Teenagers didn’t care; they heard a rocker who was ready to take on the world.

The song was sent to the disc jockey Alan Freed. Mr. Freed and another man, Russ Fratto, were added to the credits as songwriters and got a share of the publishing royalties. Played regularly on Mr. Freed’s show and others, “Maybellene” reached No. 5 on the Billboard pop chart and was a No. 1 R&B hit. In Mr. Berry’s groundbreaking early songs, his guitar twangs his famous two-stringed lick. It also punches like a horn section and sasses back at his own voice. The drummer eagerly socks the backbeat, and the pianist — usually either Mr. Johnson or Lafayette Leake — hurls fistfuls of tinkling anarchy all around him. MORE

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