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Tim OBrien
Chuck Berry for St. Louis Magazine
posted:
I became aware of Chuck Berry as I  was growing up, seeing him show up on TV variety shows and the Grammy Awards.  He would do his famous duck walk and sing what I thought were Beatles songs.
Of course it was the Beatles who admired him and who were influenced by his aggressive rocking style.

I had a tape of his music in my Ford Granada in college that was all blue with the words wiped off by my turpentine covered fingers.  Still, it was part of my music rotation for all those years.  On it were songs like Mabelline, Memphis, and Too Much Monkey Business.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard made Rock and Roll rougher and more syncopated and less white bread.  I had in the past, the honor of painting Little Richard for Rolling Stone but wished I could have done Chuck Berry too.
St.Louis Magazine called me and made my wish a reality.  
The request was to illustrate their cover celebrating the 100 greatest St. Louis musicians.
Now, the thing about what I had to do was to not just paint a piece of reference but to create a new, realistic image of Chuck Berry using parts of images.  I was able to cobble together a source 'Frankenstein' reference and do my illustration based on that.  (I would show the references acquired by St. Louis Magazine but I don't have the license to do that, FYI.)

There are many images of Chuck Berry in this position.  Not all are crisp, at the right age or really all that good for a cover image.  The goal was to create a new image and in the end I'm thrilled to have added to the images of Chuck Berry out there.  He's a special American treasure who is in his twilight years and deserves one more moment in the sun.
 
There is something about him in a white suit on white and his warm, dark skin that I love. Also, the geometry of his duck walk, the right angle is great.

Up close that portrait is quite painterly. Below is a pretty fascinating clip...it sure looks like the birth of Rock and Roll to me.


 

 



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