Chuck Berry helped mould The Rolling Stones during their formative years, and their success allowed them to meet their hero on multiple occasions. However, for Mick Jagger, he was left disappointed by Berry and later scathingly said he’d morphed into “a parody of himself”.
Despite the impoliteness he showed to the group, Keith Richards still worshipped the ground Berry walked on. He famously even left the guitarist with a black eye after Keef played his guitar backstage after a show in New York, but astonishingly, he admitted he deserved the punch. Richards explained, “I realised I was in the wrong. If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my axe, it would be perfectly all right to sock ’em.”
However, Jagger was less forgiving about Berry’s discourteous behaviour, and it tarnished his love for the musician. His poor experience at the hands of his former hero made the singer stop placing individuals on pedestals because of their music and instead simply appreciate their art for what it is.
Jagger opened up about his childhood musical heroes to MOJO in 2001 and spoke about the complex relationship he has with the two figures he once most admired. “There was Elvis, I suppose, though he was so ghastly in other ways and you somehow knew it,” he commented. “Plus, he didn’t write, and the other people who were influential, say Chuck Berry, were all writers, who would inspire you to be a writer and influence your style.”
Elaborating on what he loved about Berry, The Stones frontman said, “For me, it was Chuck the lyric writer first, and the stage performer next, and then the guitar player.”
However, his opinion of Chuck Berry, the person rather than the musician, is less than complimentary. He continued, “I think your heroes always disappoint you in the end. It’s best never to meet them. I met him loads of times and always got on well. But I think Keith always thought of him as more of a hero than I did, and therefore was more disappointed with him when he was rather rude and overbearing.”
Adding: “He was an oddly cheap character in some ways, very quirky. He never had a good band, he was always rude to everyone, he became too much of a parody of himself. He never even tried to write anything after a certain time.”
Jagger’s unhappy encounters with Berry taught him a valuable lesson about fame. Of course, he continues to admire Berry’s music greatly. After all, those played a pivotal role in shaping The Rolling Stones. However, that doesn’t excuse the “rude” conduct he saw first-hand, which made him see the blues icon in a different light.