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"Johnny B. Goode" is a 1958 rock and roll song written and originally performed by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences peaking at #2 on Billboard magazine's Hot R&B Sides chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1]

The song is one of Berry's most famous recordings, has been covered by many artists, and has received several honors and accolades. It is also considered to be one of the most recognizable songs in music history. The song is ranked as number seven on Rolling Stone's list of "the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"

Contents Edit

 [hide] 

  • 1 Composition and recording
    • 1.1 Musicians
  • 2 Legacy
  • 3 Accolades
  • 4 Cover versions
    • 4.1 Cover versions that charted
    • 4.2 Additional cover versions
    • 4.3 Other songs
  • 5 References

Composition and recording[edit] Edit

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about a poor country boy who plays a guitar "just like ringing a bell," and who might one day have his "name in lights."[2] Berry has acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical, and originally had "colored boy" in the lyrics, but he changed it to "country boy" to ensure radio play.[3] The title is suggestive that the guitar player is good, and hints at autobiographic elements because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis.[2] The song was initially inspired by Berry's piano player, Johnnie Johnson,[4][5] though developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Though Johnnie Johnson played on many other Chuck Berry songs, it was Lafayette Leake who played piano on this song.[2]

The opening guitar riff on "Johnny B. Goode" is essentially a note-for-note copy of the opening single-note solo on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" (1946), played by guitarist Carl Hogan.[6]

Berry has written thirty more songs involving the character Johnny B. Goode, "Bye Bye Johnny", "Go Go Go", and "Johnny B. Blues"; and titled an album, and the nearly 19 min instrumental title track from it, as "Concerto in B. Goode".

Musicians[edit] Edit

  • Chuck Berry – vocals, guitar[2]
  • Lafayette Leake – piano[2]
  • Willie Dixon – bass[2]
  • Fred Below – drums[2]

Legacy[edit] Edit

Berry's recording of the song was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing rock and roll, one of four American songs included among many cultural achievements of humanity.

When Chuck Berry was inducted into the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 23, 1986, he performed "Johnny B. Goode" and "Rock and Roll Music", backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.[7]The Hall of Fame included these songs and "Maybellene" in their list of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.[8] It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, for its influence as a rock and roll single.[9]

In the 1984 film Threads, the song is heard three times. The first time is when core characters Ruth Beckett and Jimmy Kemp discuss the future of their relationship before the outbreak of nuclear war, in his car overlooking Sheffield. The second time is when Jimmy is at a pub, drinking with his mate. The last time is fourteen years after the nuclear holocaust, as Ruth and Jimmy's daughter Jane, heavily pregnant, struggles to find a hospital in which to give birth. The song seems to be emanating from a nightclub, pub or brothel within the devastated post-apocalyptic town.

In the 1985 film Back to the Future, Marty McFly performed the song with the fictional band Marvin Berry and the Starlighters during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" high school dance, set in November 1955.[10]Mark Campbell (of Jack Mack and the Heart Attack fame) sang the vocals for Michael J. Fox, and Tim May played the guitar. This scene was revisited in Back to the Future Part II (1989). During Marty's Berry-esque rendition of the song, Marvin telephones his cousin Chuck, to have him hear what might be the "new sound" Chuck was looking for.

During his time in World Championship Wrestling, Marc Mero wrestled under the ring name Johnny B. Badd, an homage to the song.

Accolades[edit] Edit

List Publisher Rank Year of publication
500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 7 2010
100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Q 42 2005
100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time Rolling Stone 1 2008
Top 3000 Songs Acclaimed Music 6 N/A
500 Songs That Shaped Rock Rock & Roll Hall of Fame N/A 1995
50 Greatest Guitar Solos Guitar World 12 2009

Cover versions[edit] Edit

Cover versions that charted[edit] Edit

"Johnny Be Good"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Ram It Down
B-side "Rock You All Around the World" (live)
Released 1988
Format 7" 45 RPM, 12" maxi
Recorded 1987
Genre Heavy metal
Length 4:36
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Chuck Berry
Producer(s) Tom Allom, Glenn Tipton, K. K. Downing, Rob Halford
Judas Priest singles chronology
"Ram It Down/Heavy Metal"

(1988)

"Johnny Be Good"

(1988)

"Painkiller"

(1990)

Country musician Buck Owens' version of "Johnny B. Goode" topped Billboard magazine's Hot Country Sides chart in 1969.[11] Jimi Hendrix had a posthumous hit with "Johnny B. Goode" peaking at #35 on the UK Singles Chart in 1972[12] and #13 on the New Zealand Top 50 in 1986.[13] Peter Tosh's version of the song peaked at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100,[14] #48 on the UK Singles Chart,[15] #10 in the Netherlands, and #29 in New Zealand.[16] Judas Priest's version reached #64 on the UK Singles Chart in 1988.[17]

Additional cover versions[edit] Edit

The list of performers includes:

  • AC/DC
  • Aerosmith
  • Adam Ant
  • Al Hurricane
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks
  • Bad Religion
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Beatles
  • Big Tom and The Mainliners
  • Bon Jovi
  • Bravo
  • Marc Broussard
  • Roy Buchanan
  • Burning
  • Andrés Calamaro
  • Carpenters
  • Cidade Negra
  • The Coasters
  • John Denver
  • Danny Gatton
  • Dion
  • Celine Dion
  • Dr. Feelgood
  • Johnny Dowd
  • Earthlings?
  • John Farnham
  • Five Iron Frenzy
  • Freddie & the Dreamers
  • Rory Gallagher
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Green Day
  • The Guess Who
  • Bill Haley & His Comets
  • Johnny Hallyday
  • Hanson
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Will Hoge
  • Buddy Holly
  • Tomoyasu Hotei
  • Jay and the Americans
  • Jim & Jesse
  • Elton John
  • Judas Priest
  • B.B. King
  • King Lizard
  • Al Kooper
  • Jonny Lang
  • Julian Lennon
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Legion of Mary
  • Living Colour
  • LL Cool J ("Go Cut Creator Go")
  • Los Suaves
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge, a concert duet with Suzi Quatro in Germany in 2006
  • Phillip Magee
  • Frank Marino
  • John Mayer Trio
  • Marty McFly
  • Meat Loaf
  • Eddie Meduza
  • MF Doom
  • Micky Dolenz
  • Mina
  • Mister Twister
  • NOFX
  • NRBQ
  • Off Kilter
  • Operation Ivy
  • Buck Owens
  • Partibrejkers (Stoj, Džoni)
  • Wes Paul
  • Phish
  • Pink Fairies
  • Elvis Presley
  • Prince
  • Ratdog
  • Cliff Richard
  • Johnny Rivers
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Shogo Sakai (Mother 3 as "New Age Retro Hippie")
  • Carlos Santana
  • Bon Scott (with Cheap Trick)
  • Sex Pistols
  • The Shadows
  • Skrewdriver
  • Slade
  • Slaughter & The Dogs
  • Status Quo
  • The Stimulators
  • Stray Cats
  • Keiichi Suzuki (EarthBound titled as "New Age Retro Hippie")
  • Hirokazu Tanaka (EarthBound titled as "New Age Retro Hippie")
  • George Thorogood
  • The Toasters
  • TISM ("Johnny to B. or Not to B. Goode")
  • The Tornadoes
  • Peter Tosh
  • Twisted Sister
  • Conway Twitty
  • Nobuo Uematsu
  • The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
  • Ultraje a Rigor
  • Uncle Tupelo
  • Roch Voisine
  • The Who
  • James Gang
  • Brian Wilson
  • Johnny Winter

Other songs[edit] Edit

Leo Sayer included a song called "The Last Gig of Johnny B. Goode" on his 1975 album, Another Year, about a fallen rock star.

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