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“Rediscovering Art and Vision through Evasion of the Earnest: Chuck Berry on to the Fore”

What do you in a society where everyone becomes the same? You can be honest, but see-through too. In a land where individuality is mocked, success is surrender of self, coercion into the mass-distributed paradigm.

When time and space have become a quandary, when every corner of the earth can be shapshotted on a computer but stolen from the holistically minded, it is truly an age of fear. The “remedy” for this “fear” is convention itself, and this is what we hear even on rock radio… songs can be about one of two things — warring against terrorists (sic) or earnestly desiring a heterosexual romance.
But we’ll only rediscover our joys and visions if we reach out to one another subverting this general fear, and given the case of Chuck Berry (only the greatest rock and roller of all time), lots of times true artistic vision is actually irrespective of the norms distributed by society. For instance, in Chuck Berry: The Autobiography, he denounces the concept of pining in songs:

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(143): “I’ve been in love much more than twice, but in no period did I have the least desire to expose these beautiful fantasies in song. Those artists that improvise or register their lovely feelings in lyrics may be blessed with the formula for expressing love, but I am cursed with only the fantasies and feelings thereof. I have composed so few songs about love, if any really were, but instead have had fairly good success with songs of novelties and feelings of fun and frolic in the lyrics of my compositions.”

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This is all fine and dandy, coming as it does from the legend, but I have a bone to pick in the first place with the idea of songs being “about” something. Music transcends semantics. For instance, I even think Mr. Berry’s statement is erroneous, because “Oh Babydoll” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” his best two songs, are each about love in their own way, just not the conventional.
Also, though he doesn’t say this, I think Pharrell’s song “Happy” is actually about a girl. Let’s be clear, Pharrell operates on a different plane from the rest of us, he’s a singular genius, he sees stuff we don’t. It’s something in his voice. Though it plays like a general car wash singalong, make no mistake, it’s FROM something, and this something has touched him in a way he even fears a little bit, it’s made him keep his eye on the rolling pendulum.
It’s hard to imagine an artist less interesting than Taylor Swift, and the reason is that she’s semantically monochromatic — it’s all about her body, and America’s paradigm of love as conquest… when think of the inspiring sympathy in the heart of Jack Black when he covers, to tear-jerking extent, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” What good is art if it doesn’t come from, and cater to, a general betterment? It’s nothing, it’s PRODUCT, it’s radio, it’s TV, MTV, it’s mainstream America.

 

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