Memphis Tennessee - Chuck Berry
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"Memphis Tennessee" - Chuck Berry (1959)
Chuck Berry’s 1959 hit “Memphis, Tennessee” features his incredible vocals which are the dominant feature of the song.
The lyrics depict the speaker’s conversation on the phone to the “long distance information operator.” The lyrics are deceiving and the true roles of characters unfold as the story unfolds.
As the track begins, the speaker is asking to get in touch with the people who have phoned him. It is not known who they are yet, but his uncle is mentioned. In the next verse, he speaks of a girl named ‘Marie’. From this point in time, she could be connected to him in any way.
In the third verse, it is revealed that the speaker was close to this girl, and says that they were pulled apart because “her mom did not agree.”
From here the listener is led to believe that the girl was his lover, and her mother did not agree with the speaker, for some reason. When the speaker moves to the next verse he explains his last time seeing her, as having “hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye.”
He continues by revealing that she is only six years old, and pleads that he get in touch with her. This unfolds the story, as we are now aware that the girl is his daughter, and the mother was in fact his own wife.
“Memphis, Tennessee” is the best example of what made Chuck Berry so great. He morphed country and rockabilly onto an R&B pallet and out came rock ‘n’ roll. He was the first musician to enable his guitar to drive forward the rhythm rather than have it stratified over the top. This served to push the song along and put it in a place which allowed the following verse to continue the progression. Each verse gets that much more interesting which never leaves the listener with even one second of dead space in the course of the track.
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