A new documentary on Chuck Berry not only celebrates his central place in rock and roll history, it offers insight on a revolutionary artist who never lost that very big chip on his shoulder.
Director Jon Brewer-- who previously profiled B.B. King and Nat "King" Cole-- received the cooperation of Berry's estate. So along with interviews with familiar faces such as Steven Van Zandt and Gene Simmons, you get to meet Chuck's widow Thelmetta.
Brewer tells Cleveland.comthat Chuck "wasn’t the easiest man in the world... I never knew it was as bad as it was. A lot of people declined speaking because of having run-ins with him. He was really difficult."
You can understand how Berry became embittered, since in the '50s and '60s, "Black performers were getting ripped off. Also, he had a very difficult time getting the police off his back. They hated the fact he ran a successful nightclub for Black and white folks. He was having problems all day and night."
But instead of playing the victim, Chuck became a demanding businessman "who drew up his own contracts and wanted to be paid 100 percent upfront. If they didn’t pay him, he wouldn’t go on."
Of course, the Chuck Berry story is about the music. He wrote and performed -- in a trailblazing style that drew as much from country as R&B -- with a gift for relating to the budding teen culture of the '50s. Brewer notes, "As a poet, Berry could write relating to teenagers. They were the ones who went to the dances and listened to the radio."