After so many years of The Beatles’ mighty rule atop the pyramid of popular music, it can be difficult to remember that they were giants who stood on the shoulders of others. Their main influences were rooted in the earliest form of blues-based rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. The Beatles took a lot of inspiration from American greats like Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. But one musician they appeared particularly enamoured with was Chuck Berry.
During their live shows in the early 1960s, The Beatles never shied from pulling a cover or two from the locker to tribute their favourite rock artists. Chuck Berry’s hits were a common feature of the live shows, and his compositions were even included in the Beatles’ studio releases. A cover of Berry’s classic ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ featured in the 1963 album With the Beatles and ‘Rock and Roll Music’ featured in the 1964 album Beatles for Sale.
After their emphatic rise to global fame, The Beatles shed the armour of cover songs for their albums, but their love for their early influences never waned. As it turns out, Berry was also a keen fan of the Beatles. He once commented on why the Fab Four had been so successful, “because they were geniuses,” he said. “They’re writers I understand, three heads a growth. And boy, two heads are better than one, but three heads? Genius.”
Berry also revealed that his favourite song by the Beatles was ‘Yesterday’. “I [had] heard [Beatles music] in America,” he recalled. “My appreciation of music is not actually with an artist, but it’s with a song. Of course, the artist is involved. But each song has its own glory, and ‘Yesterday’ was the highest of The Beatles.”
Berry continued, explaining that he had connected with ‘Yesterday’ because of its relation to one’s age and experience in life. “I don’t think there could ever be a song that, at my age, could be more appropriate,” he said. “You know I haven’t learned it yet, but I shall.”
He concluded by praising the Beatles for the genuine quality of their music. “When a group or an artist continuously puts out product that is absorbed by the public and in demand, it’s genuine,” he said. “And this is what I thought about The Beatles when they continually put out hit after hit after hit.”
The Beatles released ‘Yesterday’ in August 1965 on their album Help! It was a commercial success, especially in the US, where it enjoyed four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Listen to the classic ballad below.