In celebration of rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry’s historic career, the Grammy Museum hosted a special screening of the new film Chuck Berry: Brown Eyed Handsome Man. A sold-out theater was treated to full performances of Chuck Berry compositions performed by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Lynne, as well as duets by Chuck with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Linda Ronstadt, and Keith Richards. Included were photographs and TV appearances highlighting Berry’s career as well as interviews with some of the biggest names in rock and roll history paying homage to the man. Narrated by Hollywood screen legend Danny Glover, the film solidifies Berry’s standing as one of the all-time greatest rock artists to strap on a guitar and step up to the microphone.
Following the screening, the evenings moderator Scott Goldman lead a panel discussion featuring Chuck Berry’s son—Charles Berry Jr., Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White, Ron Weisner, who produced the film, Taylor Hackford, film director and former president of the Directors Guild of America, and a rare guest appearance by legendary vocalist Bill Withers. for an informative and entertaining walk down memory lane.
“This project easily started 18 months ago,” says Charles Berry, Jr. “Ron Weisner and his team wanted to know if they could get the official blessing? My family's goal is to keep my dad’s music alive. So it spurred our interest and we said, ‘Sure, we’ll do what we can to make this happen.’ and we did.’ So we got to see it during the process and I think the final product is really good. This is just one fantastic rock performance after the other.”
“This is live performances by a host of musicians and bands, including my dad,” adds Berry. “They’re all doing my dad's music. It’s really good from start to finish. It’s narrated by Danny Glover, who does a great job. He is a fantastic orator that can set up a story in a way that lends itself to the story. A lot of bands that are in this, my dad worked with them in one capacity or another. He knew every single band that appears in the film.”
Throughout the panel, discussion guests praised the musical contributions and the impact that is still felt to this day among countless iconic rock artists, and the next generation of aspiring musicians.
“For as long as I can remember my dad has always been the person that they have given the moniker “The Father of Rock and Roll.” You go to the source. There’s Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley. My dad was at the right place at the right time, and the right person, and it just gelled perfectly from the time “Maybelline” was released. People were just drawn to this new way of playing music. Rock and roll has now been around for almost 70 years.”
Impacting generations of music fans, the Berry family was honored to have the film air during a recent PBS fundraising drive.
“PBS had the perfect opportunity to shoehorn something like this in and so we took advantage of it,” says Berry. “PBS is a great place to hone this thing for the simple fact that you have a demographic that grew up listening to my dad's music. For the kids, 10,15 years old, it’s getting to the point now that if this music isn’t presented to them in various forms, it could get lost. So doing something like this for PBS is perfect, because the grandparents, the parents, and the children will have the ability to see this just by turning it on, and that leads to other things.”
"Up until two or three years until he passed my dad was still touring,’ adds Berry. “He stopped touring when he was 87 years old. So the key to keeping the music alive was him performing. Once that stopped we didn’t want this to fade away. This is something that needs to stay alive. This is something that needs to stay vibrant. We just want to keep dad’s music relevant and keep it in people's hearts.”