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St. Louis, 1986. For Chuck Berry's 60th, Keith Richards assembles a pickup band of Robert Cray, Joey Spampinato, Eric Clapton, himself, and long-time Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson. Joined on stage by Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, and Julian Lennon, Berry performs his classic rock songs. His abilities as a composer, lyricist, singer, musician, and entertainer are on display and, in behind-the-scenes interviews, are discussed by Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bruce Springstein, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, and others. There's even a rarity for Berry, a rehearsal. Archival footage from the early 1950s and a duet with John Lennon round out this portrait of a master. Written by
I saw this a few years after it came out. The concert footage was filmed in Berry's hometown of St. Louis at the Fox theater on October 18, 1986 on his 60th birthday. It was also the same year the Berry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in it's inaugural class. Assembeled for the concert are musicians Chuck Levelle, Bobby Keyes, Joey Spampinato and Steve Jordon along with Berry's longtime collaborator and pianist Johnnie Johnson under the musical direction of Keith Richards. Guest performers are Eric Clapton, Etta James, Linda Ronsdat, Robert Cray, Julian Lennon and the guest of honor himself Chuck Berry. Interviews on his career are provided by his rock and roll contemporaries Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Roy Orbison, Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers. Additional interviews on his inspiration come from Bruce Springsteen and an older clip from John Lennon. Taylor Hackford directed. Hackford won an Academy Award in the short film category with the first project he ever did. In 1980 he began directing feature films and has since only directed 10 films but they include Against all Odds, An Officer and a Gentleman, Delores Claiborn and Ray. As a producer he also did the documentary When We Were Kings. The cinematographer is Oliver Stapleton who had only photographed some Indy films before Haill Haill Rock & Roll but would go on to do such films as Earth Girls Are Easy, The Grifters, The Cider House Rules, Buffalo Soldiers and Pay it Forward. We see Chuck Berry being his controlling, difficult ornery self here and this likely would have been an amazing film if director Hackford was allowed free reign with his camera and Chuck would have allowed a more introspective view into what is Chuck Berry but Berry calls the shots and rocks and music director Richards reels. This is a good documentary and Chuck Berry and 50's rock & Roll fans should check it out. It's amazing to think that this is 20 years gone already and Chuck Berry will be turning 80 this fall. I would give it an 8.0 out of 10.
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