Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry, Inventor of Rock & Roll Died at 90 [PUBLISHED September 2, 2010]


This story originally appeared in Rolling Stone. 9/2/2010 
60 years ago, he invented rock & roll

OVER THE COURSE OF A CAREER SPANNING SIX DECADES, Chuck Berry, arguably the most important figure in the development of rock & roll, has established a few firm rules he lives by. Among them: There will be no performance unless payment has been received in full, in cash. No limousines and no drivers: Mr. Berry prefers to drive himself while on tour. The opening band may not mention the name Chuck Berry during its set. And finally, never trust a journalist. Because of Rule Four, not only does Berry turn down most interview offers, but he has been known to chase journalists off the grounds of Berry Park, his estate near St. Louis. Thus, at age 83, he has become one of the most misunderstood pioneers of rock & roll, often described as bitter, stubborn and cantankerous. As Keith Richards notoriously put it, “I love his work, but I couldn’t warm to him even if I was cremated next to him

Police reported that they attempted to revive the guitar player and singer-songwriter but that he was unresponsive

So it was with slim hope of success that I visited Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and club in St. Louis where Berry plays a monthly concert. "If he doesn't like you or is uncomfortable, the interview will probably only be five minutes," Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards, a longtime friend of Berry's, says when I arrive. "And talk slowly. He gets frustrated when he can’t hear and might walk out."

Berry stands waiting in the restaurant, just out of sight of the customers, near a framed poster advertising his first concerts as a bandleader in the early Fifties. The first thing one notices when meeting Berry is his hands: They are big, with long nails and thick fingers. They seem built not for subtle picking but for the loud, overdriven, spilling-over-the-edges riffs that made Berry’s music seem so much younger, wilder and more dangerous than the rhythm & blues of his predecessors.

Then there is his outfit. It is that of a man who wants to stand out: a light-pink button-down shirt with a large sparkling brooch over the top button, sunglasses and a white ship-captain's hat. And, finally, there is the attitude: humble and friendly yet steadfast and unforgiving. "Oh, he made it," Berry says by way of a greeting, ribbing me for being late, although I'm actually two minutes early.
Edwards leads Berry through the restaurant, which is festooned with more memorabilia, including the Gibson guitar Berry used to record his 1958 hit "Johnny B. Goode.”

As he enters a private dining room, Berry begins to take a seat at the head of the table but then reconsiders and modestly sits on the side of the table. It is the first sign that either Berry is much more humble than the reputation that precedes him or that he's mellowed with age. A little. The first words out of his mouth are “Can I see the questions?"

"He prefers conversational interviews," Edwards says, stepping in to persuade Berry to let go of that prerequisite. Berry starts to leave again when a tape recorder is brought out, but hesitates.

"I used to work at Kroger's," Berry says finally, settling back in his seat and launching into a lecture on punctuality. "When the store opened, you were there. When I worked in an automobile plant, you punched in. So it showed if you were a minute late. If you have a paid job, you show up.”

It seemed like this was going to be the dreaded five-minute interview Edwards warned about. Soon, Berry has found something new to pick on: diction, and how he's not hearing the t's and g's in the questions. He launches into the story of how he learned to enunciate by listening to Nat “King" Cole and how he has made an effort throughout his life to pronounce words properly instead of using their slang versions.

The minutes pass by tensely, but slowly Berry begins to relax. The moment where everything changes comes during a discussion about one of his favorite pastimes: gambling. "I play a slot machine, and the day before yesterday, I had four jackpots," he says. "I was sitting there waiting to see if I could get five. Now if that's greedy, I'm greedy. Like, I wonder if there's anything beyond raising the roof on a show. Is there more? And if so, I want to try! If that’s greed, yeah, I have a bit of greed."

It's suggested that it could also be seen as ambition. "Well," Berry responds, gleefully slapping his meaty hands on the table, "I have lots of ambition! Hm-mmm, yes!"
When everyone erupts in laughter, Berry suddenly removes his sunglasses, puts in a hearing aid and breaks into a broad smile. "I can already feel that you're a very good interviewer, and these kind of interviews last a little while," he finally says. “We'll get into some things that I've been wanting to say for years!"

And so a five-minute interview turned into two sessions totaling more than four hours, during which Berry spent far more time laughing and discussing the future than acting cantankerous and complaining about the past. Berry is not focused on trying to bare his soul or look good in print or dutifully fulfill a work obligation. Instead, he engages in the conversation as if it were a theatrical event, questing either for illumination or laughter at each twist and turn of a topic. Every laugh he gets for one of his jokes, puns or gestures excites him on further, until he is proclaiming that the conversation should be staged as a Las Vegas show.
"I'm also a comedian," Berry says at one point. "I wanted to be a comedian. And I did that so much in high school, I couldn’t get a girlfriend."

This is an unusual revelation, but it may explain why Berry still considers "My Ding-A-Ling" — his 1972 novelty hit about masturbation — to be as good as any song in his oeuvre, to the embarrassment of his devoted fans. It's also why when you discuss his appearances on the Johnny Carson show decades ago, he'll tell you the jokes and comebacks he should have said (even though, to anyone else watching, he came across as a perfectly fine yet eccentric guest). And why interviews with him are filled with random quips and one-liners.

Does he still want to be a comedian? "Every time I get a chance," he replies. "I'm still trying!"
 "I can already feel that you're a very good interviewer, and these kind of interviews last a little while," he finally says. “We'll get into some things that I've been wanting to say for years!"

'MY FATHER IS STILL, IN his roots, a humble man raised by God-fearing parents, churchgoing folks, farmer folks," says his daughter Ingrid, 59, whom Berry calls in the middle of the interview and puts on the phone. "The country and the humbleness have never left him. And neither has his dedication to hard work." In fact, as engaged as he may be in the present moment, Berry is either unaware of or in denial of his place in history — despite John Lennon's famous quote that the words "rock & roll" are synonymous with the name "Chuck Berry." When asked whether he feels he was one of the inventors of rock, he responds, "No. There's Louis Jordan. There's Count Basie. Nat Cole for sure. This guy Joe Turner. There's Muddy Waters, Blue Eyes [Frank Sinatra], Tommy Dorsey."
While those artists may have inspired Berry, they were playing in predominantly blues, jazz or vocal-pop idioms. 

Berry was among the first to fuse blues and country over a rhythm & blues backbeat into something that the youth culture could claim as its own. "I just feel I got my inspiration, education and all from others that came before me," he says. "And I added my … I don't even know if I added anything. I played what they played, and it sounded different, I guess.

"It means something to a lot of people," he concludes, "but I don't know what it means to them."
If Berry isn't clear about what his music means to his fans, he's always known exactly what his fans want to hear. Unlike most of the pioneering blues and country singers who preceded him, he wasn’t writing about his own reality: He was a high school dropout who was in his early 30s at the time, singing about teenage drag races, young crushes and school woes.

 Back in the early 1950s, when he exploded onto the regional music scene, it wasn't because he was an inventor and innovator like Bo Diddley, but simply because he discovered a fusion of styles that audiences responded to. At the Cosmopolitan Club in East St. Louis, where he played in a trio originally led by his pianist Johnnie Johnson, he began modifying the hits of the day and adding the country music of Hank Williams and Bob Wills to the mix in order to keep the primarily African-American crowd on its feet, attentive and entertained.

As his popularity grew, he had the additional challenge of playing to racially mixed crowds. He was often booked in segregated theaters where there were white kids on one side and black kids on the other. As Berry recalls, the whites responded to black music (the blues) while the blacks responded to white music ("hillbilly" country). So it was, in part, through trying to please both audiences simultaneously that Berry's contribution to rock & roll came to be. As Jim Marsala, who has played bass with Berry for the past 37 years, puts it, "His entertaining abilities have kept him where he is. Even when things don’t go right, he can always keep the show going."

"Give people what they want — that's true," Berry says, speaking about his thought process when onstage. "I'm searching for who is attentive out there in the audience. I can look around and be singing 'My Ding-A-Ling' and stop and sing 'The Lord's Prayer' because some people will be sitting out there looking like they're from church. There's certain songs and thoughts, for that matter, that almost make tears come to their eyes. I’d give it to them if that's what they wanted."

Berry is interrupted by the ringing of his iPhone. Dick Alen, his booking agent for more than five decades, is calling about a possible concert with Jerry Lee Lewis. "You called in the middle of an interview," Berry tells him. “You know, the thing that Chuck Berry doesn't do."

"He was the first one to send me to Russia," Berry says after handing the phone around the room to let everyone talk to Alen. "He hasn't sent me to Africa yet. I'm not too interested in accepting until it gets a little more lovable. You know, because you lose your passport, and I'm done. Woo!"
But, Berry is reminded, he could always go to the U.S. Embassy and get a new passport. They'd probably recognize him there. “That's what I'm afraid of," he says, laughing.

BERRY DOESN'T LIKE TO DWELL on the past, but there are a few things he keeps coming back to — most having to do with the family. "Mom was a schoolteacher," he begins. "She was religious and did everything to get my dad to be a pastor. But he was never pastor, just a deacon in the church. He wound up being the best bass singer in the choir…. They stayed together 66 years, and then Mom fell off, and shortly after, Dad fell off. But anyway, they were a match, and they raised six kids. Only two of us left.”

By day, his father was a carpenter, and Berry was originally groomed to work as his apprentice. But when Berry was a teenager, he fell in with a bad crowd and served three years in reform school for a three-day spree that included robbing shirts from a clothing store and carjacking.

When asked what advice he would give his younger self today, Berry thinks for a while, then giggles. "Not to take that man's car — and to leave the shirt that I took off of a counter of a dry-goods store. Anything to do with crime, I wouldn't do. And I would finish high school, because it took me three times as long to finish as it would have if I'd have stayed. I left in 11th grade.”

After his release from reform school at 21, Berry married his girlfriend, Themetta (to whom he has been married for 61 years), and began working at a Chevrolet plant. Later, he followed his sisters into cosmetology school while also working for his father. He supplemented his income by performing locally in pianist Johnnie Johnson's band — which soon, due to Berry's onstage charisma, became his band. The group’s break came when Berry saw Muddy Waters play in Chicago, and Waters suggested he visit Leonard Chess of Chess Records.

Chess asked Berry to return with some tapes of his music and said he'd prefer hearing original songs to covers. So Berry returned to St. Louis. "There wasn't nobody giving me their songs, so I knew I had to write," Berry recalls. “I wrote two from poems."

He breaks into a deep, dramatic voice and begins reciting Alfred Lord Tennyson: "Break, break, break on thy cold gray stones, oh, Sea! And I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me.”

His eyes grow misty as he finishes his recitation: "My dad's voice just willowed like that. I’m sure glad I'm his son."

As for the music, Berry says that because he didn't know how to read music — and affixing letters to notes didn't make sense to him — he developed his own system for notating music. Instead of using a letter like A or C, he assigned a number to each note, which enabled him to notate anything he wanted. “That's the way I learned to do music," he says, "through mathematics."

Chess ended up liking Berry's songs and scheduled a session for Berry and his band in May 1955. Later, when he received his first royalty statement, Berry discovered that one of the four songs he'd recorded — "Maybellene," a reworked version of the folk tune "Ida Red" powered by a driving beat and a story about a car race and a cheating girl — had two random, additional writing credits. One was to disc jockey Alan Freed as a form of payola and the other to Russ Fratto, Chess' landlord.
Today, Berry has mixed feelings about the songwriting credits, which have since been reverted to him. "With payola, I made more money because the song made more money," he says. "But who would have thought that 'Maybellene' would be a smash? It went straight to Number One. It shows there is some good to the song.”

And thanks to that — and Freed's support — the single was all over the radio and climbing the rhythm & blues charts, where it soon hit Number One (and Number Five on the Billboard pop charts). The song changed Berry’s life and, ultimately, all of popular music.

"He influenced everything," says country legend Merle Haggard, who modeled some early songs on Chuck Berry's music. "I liked the way he acted. I liked the way he played. I liked the way he sang. I liked the way he wrote songs. He wrote songs that made sense and were not halfway written like other songs of that time.”

His literate and clearly enunciated story-songs of automobiles and high school and rocking-and-rolling began to shape the music that was to follow, with practically every important rock band of the next two decades building off i his foundation. Hits like "Rock & Roll Music," "Johnny B. Goode” and "Roll Over Beethoven" melded a powerful backbeat, boogie-woogie piano, country rhythm guitar and a unique combination of short, catchy riffs and sped-up blues-picking.

"When I first heard that guitar, from that time on, every guitarist I auditioned would have to play 'Johnny B. Goode,'" recalls Ronnie Hawkins, the rockabilly pioneer.
But like many superstars, Berry's highs were followed by major lows. Thrifty and entrepreneurial after years of having to fend for his wife and children, he invested the money he made in everything from real estate to a movie theater to a nightclub, which proved to be his undoing.

In 1959, he met a 14-year-old Apache prostitute in Texas and brought her back to St. Louis to work as a hat-check girl at his club. After he fired her, she went to the police, and Berry served four years in prison for violating the Mann Act, which prohibited the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes (though it was often used to prosecute black men sleeping with women of other races). While Berry was locked up, his renown grew: British Invasion acts like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones covered his songs, refashioned them into their own hits, and praised his name in interviews, while stateside, the Beach Boys turned "Sweet Little Sixteen" into their own Top 10 single, "Surfin' U.S.A." So when Berry was released in 1963, he was a bigger star than before he entered prison. Though he recorded a few more classic songs, Berry never quite found his creative stride again. He left Chess for a while in the Sixties to record mostly unremarkable albums for Mercury Records, and then returned to Chess in the Seventies and resurrected his career with the fluke Number One novelty, “My Ding-A-Ling."

"I'll get e-mails from, like, an 18-year-old kid who says, 'Thank you for turning me on to Chuck Berry because the only thing I ever heard by him was 'My Ding-A-Ling,'" Tom Petty says, discussing his Sirius satellite-radio show, on which he plays the Chuck Berry music that influenced him. “And that makes me feel good to, you know, complete the circle and give something back."

Berry doesn't see "My Ding-A-Ling" as a career aberration at all, but rather as a highlight. He says the song was originally going to be about a ring, and sliding a finger into it as a metaphor for intercourse. But he decided it was too extreme. Then he recorded it as "my tambourine," but he decided it didn't fit well. "'Ding-A-Ling' was clean," he concludes. "Made a lot of money: a $200,000 check. I'll never forget that check. And it's all dirt. Nice, clean dirt!"

Then, for the third time, Berry's life took a sudden plunge. Shortly after performing at the White House in 1979, he was sent back to prison for three months for income-tax evasion.
Though these scandals, setbacks and jail sentences have, over time, only added to Berry's legend, they still haunt him. "I want to try to patch some of the negative opinions that lie awaiting my assistance," he says. "I say assistance because if there was a comeback, there would be things I could hand out… charity. And it would appear that the negative things have faded.”

THE CHUCK BERRY SITTING HERE is unlike the recalcitrant Chuck Berry of legend. He is almost too open, too trusting. Asked what he wants to talk about that he hasn't ever spoken about before, Berry drums his large thumbs on the table and thinks for a second. "Let me see," he begins. "I think I don't have as long as I perhaps feel I have to be here. And I want to do something that I know will last after I leave.”

Almost anyone would say that Berry has already made a mark that will long outlive him. But Berry is a gambler, the type to go for the fifth jackpot. "In other words," he elaborates, "I want to do another 'Johnny B. Goode' in action or deed, something as powerful as 'Ding-A-Ling.'" Berry also says he has been racing to write down as many of his ideas and thoughts about his favorite subjects — life, mathematics, philosophy and sexuality — as he can. "Nobody's going to know what I think after I'm gone," he says. "It's over with. So if I put my thoughts in the computer, somebody will take care of it.”

Berry says he wants to play some of the new songs he's been working on. First, though, he suggests taking a break and ordering food, which Edwards typically supplies him with for free. “I'll have two orders of wings," he tells Edwards.

"One for here and one to go?" Edwards asks.
“Yes, business is business," Berry says with a smile.

Berry's uncompromising and unusual way of doing business has long been a part of his legacy. On tour, he’s known to be demanding, generally has the promoter hire random local musicians to back him, shows up minutes before showtime, plays without a set list and often leaves like a factory worker, punching the clock the moment the concert is scheduled to end.

Berry's touring habits were most likely shaped by experience. In the Fifties, when his band members started drinking and showing up late to shows or missing them entirely, he dropped them, because he had a family to support and needed the money. When promoters didn't pay him for concerts, he demanded cash before going onstage. When he got robbed after a show in Texas, he asked for the money to be sent to him before even traveling. When limo drivers left him stranded, he insisted on driving himself from the airport to concerts. When he turned his Berry Park estate into a festival venue and campground, and concertgoers trashed it, he shut it down and stopped allowing the public there.
So in his 80s, he has now amassed a list of strict rules, which gives others the impression of Berry being difficult. "Some of the stuff that promoters pulled on him before he knew any better got him to a point where he doesn't trust anybody," says Billy Peek, who played guitar with Berry in the late Sixties and early Seventies. "So when he does his contracts, everything he wants is there. For example, he likes a certain kind of amplifier — a Fender Dual Showman Reverb. So he'd put a rider in his contract that if the promoters didn't provide it, they had to give him this much more money per show. Well, the promoters would just assume that Chuck would be OK with another amp. And he'd come in and say, 'If you don't have that, give me that extra money.' So they’d get all huffy and pissed off and go around and tell everybody how difficult Chuck Berry was, and it's because they didn't do what they were supposed to do."

'You hear a lot about Chuck being mean, and you hear about him doing this and that, but the Chuck Berry that I know is one of the kindest people you've ever met in your whole life," says Bob Lohr, the pianist in Berry's house band now. "People misunderstand his hesitance to get involved with other people: It's because he's scared. He's been burned so many times that he's developed sort of a thick skin. But anybody who has spent a lot of time with him will tell you he’s really a good guy and a fun guy to be around."

WHEN THE FOOD ARRIVES, Berry sifts through his iPhone and offers to play some "dining music" — the new songs he's been working on. Some are clear knockoffs of his older songs, such as "Lady B. Goode" (a sequel to "Johnny B. Goode”) and "Jamaica Moon" (a new stab at the Calypso-tinged "Havana Moon").

"I didn't do my homework then," Berry says. "What's his name? Castro. He was in a world of trouble in America, and here I come with 'Havana Moon,' a sweet little song. Get outta here!"
Mixed in among these retro nuggets, however, are songs in an entirely new style — not blistering rockers but highly poetic spoken stories like “The Dutchman" and "Eyes of Man," set to gentle, atmospheric music more suited for a movie score.

"You know, as much popularity as I have had since my last album was out, I don't think it would be blasting like Michael Jackson or anybody," Berry says. "But, boy, it would sure buy six or seven yachts, at least, for people. Because everywhere I go, I get that look — you know, 'Is that him?'"
Meditating on a possible late-career windfall, Berry says he would invest in real estate, give some to Haiti and prison reform, and possibly devote some to rebuilding a perpetual-motion machine that his father invented. It debuted in front of the mayor's office, where it ran for eight days before petering out. “I can still draw it and see every one of those little balls rolling on a slot as it went around," Berry says.

Perhaps because he dropped out of high school, Berry has an insatiable drive to display his intelligence and learn new things. When speaking, he searches persistently for the right word and asks for the definition of any word he doesn't understand, and then doesn't let up with questions until he fully grasps its meaning and usage. It is this quality that made Berry's songs so different from those of the country and blues singers who preceded him. More than the music, Berry agonizes over the way his lyrics fit together, their ability to stand on their own, as literature separate from the music, and their precise and clear delivery.

After discussing the hours he spends working on getting each syllable, word and phrase of a song right, Berry says he has to leave to meet with a lawyer about a lawsuit filed against him over a missed concert. But rather than ending the interview, Berry says he'd like to continue talking. He suggests meeting back at the club at 9 p.m. before his concert.

AT 7:30 THAT NIGHT, AN HOUR and a half before our scheduled interview time, Edwards calls and says that Berry is already back at the club waiting to talk. I meet Berry and his band backstage. One thing that has always befuddled the band is that, despite being a stickler for the money he's due, Berry has never sold T-shirts, CDs or other merchandise at concerts. "I've brought it up many, many times," says Jim Marsala, his bassist. "I've told him there's a fortune in merchandising; bands have made their living off of that. But I don't know why he doesn't do that. I think he just doesn’t want to get involved and take all that merchandise along and deal with it."

Berry suggests returning to the room where we were talking earlier. As we enter, he cuts ahead and takes a seat on the opposite side of the table from where he sat last time, then breaks into a mischievous smile and says, “To change things up."

The following hour-long discussion is so candid that, at times, it appears that Berry isn’t even conscious he's doing an interview.

"He's for real," Berry says when discussing Little Richard's sexuality. "I know because he came on to me once, you know. And it just doesn't make sense. I couldn't believe it! And he believes it. By that, I mean, he doesn’t deny it."

Most of the remainder of the discussion revolves around his favorite subject, and perhaps another element of his personality that made him a rock pioneer: his obsession with women and sex, especially cleavage and legs. (In the Nineties, Berry was sued by a group of women who claimed he'd installed cameras in the restrooms of a restaurant he owned in order to peep, though Berry denied it; the case was settled out of court.) It is a fascination that most likely came from his father forbidding him from looking at women as a child.

You were saying earlier you were broken in at 15?
Do you know what BYPU is?

It's the Baptist Young People's Union [hits table and laughs]. That's when I first knew — not knew, had contact with, because it didn't fulfill itself. Now let me be truthful. I couldn't…
You were too nervous?

That's what I'm saying. And it was a year before I did. I got a terrible beating, you know. There were sisters: One was 17, the other was 15, and I was 15. I met the 17-year-old, and she drove me to the back porch. And the people next door were looking right at us. I never thought about that because I was so excited! [Laughsi] See, that's the kind of stuff I can put in [a book or a song] without one dirty word. There's enough English where you could say "s-h-i-t" by putting different words together.
I like that about your writing: Everything is suggested without being explicit.

I want to get into it because I want to know — does anybody think like I think about sex?
Most people probably do but don't talk about it, because sex is still such a big taboo. It must have been even worse when you were younger.

My dad used to do carpentry work all around south St. Louis. And in south St. Louis, a lot of men work away from home, and the women keep the home. And here’s the funny part: When I was young, 

I was pretty nice.

Not like now.

I'm talking about nice-looking! Anyway, I would be helping Dad to fix a lock, and the women would bring some oranges or something. Not all women, but some women were forward. Firstly, Daddy would ignore them. I would wonder why Dad wouldn't laugh if she would laugh. They would flirt with my dad and make comments about me, and they would try to encourage him to say something for me. And he taught us not to say anything and not to smile. If you did, you'd get your neck broke. He wanted to keep us alive.

Imagine what it was like when your dad was born.

Oh, when he came up, well, they didn't get a chance to answer. They'd hang you in a minute. You know, I didn't know that you were educated. I mean, sophisticated. Your sophistication is coming to realization, so to speak.

Thank you.
Rolling Stone, that's a sophisticated magazine. It's not as into sex as Playboy is, but it's way more into sex than Discovery.

You know, what's that yellow dictionary?
National Geographic?

Yeah! But you can see a little of something in there. I used to look at that! [Pounds table and laughs."] They show a little, because I remember looking at a lot of them. And of course Playboy. All youngsters did look at Playboy. It was so graphic! It shows right what you want to see. Whoever heard of a nipple covering a whole page? But that was very interesting. I've never been that close [laughs]. Oh, man, we could write a book about it.

IN FACT, BERRY SAYS, HE'S BEEN collecting stories of his sexual escapades for a possible book. "I have a computerful," he admits. "I've been talking to my son about it so he won't be shocked."
Berry has also amassed several thousand pictures. Most of them, he says, he wouldn’t put in a book because they are, as he puts it, "very personal."

As showtime nears, Berry invites me to visit his Berry Park estate in nearby Wentzville, Missouri, where he lives part of each week when he isn't staying in town with his wife. On the 150 acres of Berry Park, there is a cluster of houses being demolished, in addition to the charred remains of Berry'sclubhouse, which burned down in 2003 along with tapes of some of Berry's last studio recordings with Johnnie Johnson, who died in 2005. Nearby, there's an old blue Ford pickup that has the words WH BERRY. 4410 HOLLY on the door — his father's old carpentry truck. Beyond it, there are three Kubota grass cutters, which Berry uses to keep the acres of grass trimmed on the property.
"I'm a millionaire, but I cut the grass," Berry says. "And each time I cut it, it's my grass. And that is satisfying. Hm-mm-mm." He laughs and stamps his feet, jovial and excited.

Every blade of grass, he continues, tells a story. "It's like a person," he says. "A blade is a blade: When it's cut in half, it dies, for sure. But the half that isn't cut springs back to life."
And this is the story of Berry's life. At 83, he isn’t looking back on the scandals that many say scarred him psychologically, but he is working hard to do something new that matters.

Where most people expect to see their whole lives or a vivid memory flash through their minds when they die, Berry says that won't be the case with him. "I wouldn't be having a memory," he says, breaking into a wide smile. “I would want to know what's next."

"Give the people what they want — that's true," says Berry who still tours regularly "There are certain songs I do that almost make tears come to people's eyes."
"I want to do something I know will last after I leave. I want to do another 'Johnny B. Goode,' or something as powerful as 'My Ding-A-Ling.'"
"I'm a millionaire, but I cut the grass. It's satisfying. Every blade that's cut in half dies, for sure. But the other half springs back to life."

January 20, 2017

“ILoveMakonnen” Comes Out Gay

iLoveMakonnen has come out as gay.
The hip-hop star shared his news with a string of tweets in the small hours of Friday morning. “As a fashion icon, I can’t tell u about everybody else's closet, I can only tell u about mine, and it's time I've come out,” he wrote in one tweet.
The Atlanta rapper’s social media feeds have been mostly filled with love and support.
The MC (real name Makonnen Sheran) broke out with the 2014 smash "Club Goin Up On A Tuesday" and was a signing to Drake's OVO Sound. He left the label last year, issuing a statement on his departure: "I'm sure the haters will have something negative to say, but all in all my choice to be solely on Warner Bros Records was the right thing for me and for my best interest. Sorry there’s no beef to report.”

October 4, 2014

Hetero.Hozier Preaching Gay Rights and Sensuality is Hit a Nerve

Hozier, aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne, plays Irving Plaza on Nov. 5 and 6 and the Beacon Theater in March.Hozier, aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne, plays Irving Plaza on Nov. 5 and 6 and the Beacon Theater in March.
Hozier has struck a nerve.
His song “Take Me to Church” has sold more than 500,000 copies and is streaming 1.3 million times per week, while its video has racked up more than 11.5 million views on YouTube. All this before the Irish singer has released a full album in the U.S.
The 23-year-old’s self-titled debut comes out Tuesday, followed by an Oct. 11 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
Based on just the “Church” song, Hozier has also sold out two dates at Irving Plaza, Nov. 5 and 6, fueling so much demand that promoters have already bumped him up to a larger show at the Beacon Theater for March 6.
The subject matter of “Church” seemed guaranteed to snag maximum attention. It’s a lightning rod of a song, critiquing the Catholic Church for what Hozier sees as judgmental views of mankind that start at birth.
“Every Sunday’s getting bleak/a fresh poison each week,” he sings. “We were born sick/you heard them say.”
The video goes further. It depicts a gay male couple intimately kissing before a group of bashers attacks them.
The debut album, "Hozier"The debut album, "Hozier"
The song’s lyrics don’t refer specifically to gay rights, but the words present sensuality as the path to righteousness. “The only heaven I’ll be sent to/is when I’m alone with you,” Hozier sings with bluesy engagement. “I’m the pagan of the good times/My lover’s the sunlight.”
“The song is about replacing theoretical things with things that are tangible.” says the budding star, who was born Catholic. “The church undermines a very natural part of being a human. It teaches shame about sexuality, regardless of orientation.”
Hozier says his message about the church hasn’t drawn “any death threats or major criticism. The only place you see any controversy is in the YouTube comments section, which is like a public toilet wall. Some people are more upset at seeing men kissing than anything else in the song, which is a shame.”
Hozier, who isn’t gay, decided to address the cause in the video after witnessing what was going on with LGBT people in Russia as well as places like Uganda, where homosexuality can draw a life sentence. As a straight man talking about gay issues, Hozier echoes Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who had one of last year’s biggest hits with the Grammy-nominated marriage-equality ode “Same Love.”
Hozier says his attention to the power of sensuality rises not only from his philosophy but from his rural-blues musical style.
“I first learned how to play music through the blues,” says Hozier, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne in County Wicklow.
'The song is about replacing theoretical things with things are tangible.' says the budding star, who was born Catholic.
His first exposure came through his father, who played in bands and “had an extensive collection of vintage blues. I was familiar with it before I even knew I was familiar with it.
“It’s very physical music, very sexual music that draws you to the core of things — things that can be touched and smelled,” he adds.
Hozier’s career got off to a fast start. The guitar player went to Dublin’s Trinity College to study music but dropped out in his first year after getting a break to record demos with Universal Records. He performed with the Celtic choral group Anuna from 2009 to 2012, but the following year he released his own EP in Ireland, featuring the “Take Me to Church” single. It shot to No. 2 in that country, leading to another EP last year, “From Eden.”
Hozier’s debut culls the best of the EPs, adding new songs as well. In the chorus of the single, he has a nasality that sounds like Elton John. Elsewhere he sings in a more fluid blues voice. Hozier’s lyrics can be purple, straining to express the thrill of tactile love. Many lyrics express sexual longing, inspired by the end of his first romantic relationship.
Despite his heterosexual orientation — the album runs rife with odes to “she” — Hozier says he doesn’t feel presumptuous speaking for gay people. “It’s a civil-rights issue,” he says. “People all too often won’t comment unless it affects them. But a violation of human rights affects us all.”
Hozier appears as musical guest on Saturday Night Live Oct. 11
Jim Farber

August 23, 2013

Lady GaGa’s Premiere Video

This one's a must! Gaga's first video in two years is all about outrageous fashion. Which costume is the wildest in "Applause”?
Courtesy of VEVO
adamfoxie*Shares with You

August 21, 2013

ALL American ALL Gay ALL Sensation ALL Sexy

Gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand.

In these days of instant Internet celebrity, overnight sensations are a dime a dozen. But Chicago-based gay singer/songwriter Steve Grand seems to be an exception with his song "All-American Boy" and its accompanying video. Sure, he's breathtaking to look at, and that doesn't hurt. He's even put in time as a model. More than just a pretty face and amazing body, Grand is a musician with a message. Striking a chord across boundaries, Grand's song and video of unrequited love, set to an unlikely country-music beat, have found a devoted audience, and earned more than a million views on YouTube. On the boot-heels of this viral video, Grand has received media coverage from The Huffington Post, Good Morning, America and the Los Angeles Times,not to mention LGBT websites and publications. A proudly gay voice for his generation, Grand is still getting used to being in the spotlight. I spoke with him about his music and his future in mid-July.
Gregg Shapiro: Steve, how does it feel to be a YouTube sensation?
Steve Grand: More than anything, I'm just grateful my song has reached so many people so quickly, and that it resonates with people emotionally. That's all I hoped for. As far as being a YouTube sensation goes, I am more than one song and one video. I certainly hope that this is just the very beginning of a career. Because that's what I got into this to do, not to be a flash in the pan.
Is there anything in your background or training as an artist that prepared you for this moment?
I started taking piano when I was six years old. I was so fascinated even with just the aesthetic of a piano. I was obsessed with Schroeder from Peanuts, and his piano. My parents picked up on it, and they got us this old, shitty upright piano, and we all started taking lessons. I was the one that was really into it. I took music classes in high school. I didn't really understand music theory until I was a teenager, then everything started to click. There was a guitar teacher who really helped develop my ear and help me listen to things. I have classical training, balanced with playing by ear. I can read charts and sight-read.
Because "All-American Boy" has a touch of twang, the song is being pigeonholed as country, and even led to a favorable mention on a Nashville website. But being an openly gay musician in Music City can still be risky, as we saw when Chely Wright came out as a lesbian.
I never set out to write a country song. I would never dismiss that if it sounds like country to some people. That's fine. At the heart of it, country music is good storytelling, and "All-American Boy" is a story. Even if I am labeled as a country singer, which isn't a label I gave myself, I certainly wouldn't want to take away anything from the brave men and women who came before me.
"All-American Boy" could just as easily have been arranged as a power pop tune, an acoustic folk number, or an electronic dance track. Are there plans for the song to be remixed for club play?
I would be open to hearing what that would sound like.
Have you recorded any other songs?
I've been writing since age 11, so I have lots of music that I've written. I've been recording for a long time, too. Sometimes I'll do a vocal take 300 times, so things take me kind of a while.
Scene from Steve Grand's All-American Boy music video.
For a lot of LGBT folks, "All-American Boy" is instantly relatable, because everyone has had the experience of being attracted to someone straight or unattainable. How personal is that experience for you?
We've all been there, and I mean gay, straight, bi, whoever you are, but it especially rings true for LGBT people. It is the story of my life since I was 13. I grew up in a place where gay people weren't visible. I was always crushing on my best friends. The song isn't about anyone specific. It's the accumulation of experiences.
What kind of advice would you offer in that situation?
Hold on and don't make yourself fucking crazy! Unless you're in a world that's exclusively gay, it's going to happen. I needed to get the song off my chest. I think it has helped people. I've read their messages, saying "Thank you for telling my story," and telling me what happened to them with their guys. I try to play therapist!
Because of your religious upbringing and what you went through with your family and ex-gay therapy, you are being looked up to as a symbol of strength and overcoming the odds.
To some degree I feel like, wow, I can't live up to that! Don't put me in a position to be a role model. But the story is true. I don't want to let people down. I got into this to play music as a way to express myself and tell stories. My focus now is not letting the people who put their trust in me down.
What is the next step for you professionally?
Trying to put together a team of people who can see my vision and can help point me in the right direction so that I'm staying true to myself and true to my art. Then I want to start releasing more music.
As we speak, you're at the airport on the way to New York. Have you been recognized?
Not so far. In my hometown, I have, by people I don't know! But not at the airport in my gym shorts. My hair looks terrible, and I'm wearing an old T-shirt.

July 7, 2013

America’s First Openly Gay Male Country’s SuperStar

America's first openly gay country singer? Steve Grand is taking a stand

 He ain’t going to play it safe no more!

Singer Steve Grand has put his early music career on the line by not only revealing he is gay, but kissing a man in the viral video clip for his debut single, 'All-American Boy'.
'I fought with who I was for most of my life,' the rising country music star wrote for The Center Orlando.
'In every way a young person can fight with himself.
'But starting today, I’m laying it out there. I’m done playing it safe.'

In a move sure to divide (or not) conservative country music fans - and the congregations of churches at which he performs on Sundays - Grand sings about his unrequited love for a man in a heterosexual relationship.
In the video clip, which has attracted more than 337,000 hits, Grand's character falls hard for another young man.
I think that if the kid is good he is good. Actually I understated that, he needs to be extra good and if he proofs that he is and can both move the vocal chords and his heart in front of a judging audience he will be fine and will make history. 
Funny that I have to write judging audience describing people that are forbidden to judge by their leader and god Jesus Christ yet every gay person knows how that judgement comes. If Christians would just follow Christ and what he said not what other have said, then Christ being god or not would be a world changer and none like him. But men/women have always use religion, power(money,politics), to his /her own advantages not to advance a cause they don’t like.  {Adam} 
Romantic: Steve Grand pashes his love interest in the video clip for his new song, All-American Boy

June 6, 2013

Lauryn Hill Compares The Gay Community as Neurotic Pimps,Pushers and Serial Criminals} A Bulls Eye a Hater Would Say

In all honesty I am not one of  Lauryn Hill fans. There are songs I like but most I don’t like and it could be I never liked her or better yet I never felt inspired by her like I do by Adele(not comparing her to Adele) or any other singer in any genre. I could listen to a song and like it but it isn’t until I see the artist and how much sincere emotion is put on the singing and the lyrics Im just a casual listener but will not buy or stream that music. I don’t want words I want truth and the heart of the artist put before me, like a little beautiful french singer would do every time.

In fairness I found someone who knows her and her music and also a fan but fair person. Josh Middleton is that person on PHYLLY blog:
The controversy that erupted when singer/rapper Lauryn Hill released a new song, “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix),” that many slammed for containing homophobic lyrics. The verse in question is basically a rundown of reasons why the world has gone to shit. In it, she compares “girl men” “drag queens” and “social transvestism” to “pimps,” “pushers” and “serial criminals.” Sounds like a pretty direct hit to the LGBTQ community, huh? Wel, Hill says we have it all wrong.
Gay Star News reports that the singer says the lyrics aren’t meant to target a specific group, but “everyone in our society who hides behind neurotic behavior.” She continues:
“Neurotic Society” is a song about people not being, or not being able to be, who and what they truly are, due to the current social construct. … Everyone has a right to their own beliefs. Although I do not necessarily agree with what everyone says or does, I do believe in everyone’s right to protest. … The overarching message of my music is to get up and stop compromising! And hopefully it will stimulate and motivate the changes that our society needs.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t make it much better for me. I take offense to the fact that she basically says being a girl man or a drag queen is “hiding behind neurotic behavior.” And I’m sorry, but nothing burns me up more than the whole, “you can be who you are, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it” argument. It breaks my heart, too, because Miseducation is one of my favorite albums ever.
Oh, the pain when our favorite divas break our hearts!

May 8, 2013

Gay British Boy Bander James Duncan Grows (Update)

 Gay British boy bander Duncan James can sing. After checking out his muscled and tatted body in a sexy new photo shoot, we don't really care.
James apparently came out in 2009 during a fledgling solo career and before Blue reunited and joined "The Big Reunion." But that's when James again discussed being gay and fans reacted like it was news. And he keeps talking about it, this time with Gay Times UK in a revealing interview.

Duncan James

Me, Myself, and I
Full Name: Duncan Matthew James 
Nickname(s): 'Dunk', 'Spunk', 'Harry' 
Hair Colour: Light Brown 
Eye Colour: Blue 
Height: 5'11 
D.O.B: 7th April 1979 
Starsign: Aries 
Place of Birth: Salisbury, Wilts 
Mom- Fiona Inglis
Dad- Simon Roscoe
Daughter- Tianie-Finn James
Favourite Band/Artist: Marvin Gaye 
Favourite album:'Left of the middle' by Natalie Imbruglia 
Favourite book:'Catcher in the Rye' 
Favourite film:'The Fifth Element' 
Favourite meal: Any Seafood 
Favourite drink: Cranberry Juice 
Favourite smell: Cool Water 
Favourite TV show: Friends 
Favourite Football team: Arsenal 
Favourite Clothes store: Levis 
Favourite colour: Red

Hates Mcdonalds,As a child he had C.O, has to read horoscopes everyday, half Italian, Lost his virginity at 18, Has half siblings in Germany, Gets embarrassed when drunk, Loves 70's, he can surf, very superstitious.

April 24, 2013

Cody Simpson ] Pretty Brown Eyes

Between sticking up for the Biebs and offering himself up as a prom date for charityCody Simpson has put out his latest music video!

Cody has been hard at work making his next album and the first of it is finally here. He recently released the music video for "Pretty Brown Eyes" and it's nothing short of a good time. Watch the video (above) and let us know what you think!

Don't forget to tune in for our live Q&A with Cody later today, at 4:30 PST!

I like this right here

This girl she came 'round
The corner, looking like a model
Magazine figure, she was shaped like a bottle
Long straight hair, she was fly as a bird
First time ever I was lost for words
Felt so right, couldn't be wrong
Love at first sight, if that exists at all
I couldn't move, felt like I was stuck
And then baby girl looked up

And I said hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?
And I said hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?

This girl she was a lil hottie,
She know she got it
Came from the city so she loves to party
The JT song that can move that body
She dancing all night long

Cause I can tell that she was a wild one
That's why I was shy at first,
But I finally worked up the nerve

And I said hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?
And I said hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?

Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you

Like hey hey little pretty brown eyes
Don't cha ever be looking at them other guys
Ain't never had a surfer like me
Start swimming over here and ride my wave
Cause I see that you party like theres no tomorrow
Let's leave the party, I'll grab my guitar
I got the keys, so jump in my car
Sit back relax, Australia's kinda far

Hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?
And I said hey there pretty brown eyes
Watcha doin' later tonight?
Mind if I spend time with you?

Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you
Spend a little bit, a little bit of time with you


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