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Morning Song – Nadine

March 21, 2017

It’s not that virtually all popular music over the past two generations wouldn’t exist without Chuck Berry; it’s that it 1) wouldn’t be the same, and 2) wouldn’t be as good.

Take rappers and singer-songwriters, for example. All those angry young black men from the city spitting verses and all those daydreaming young white kids with their acoustic guitars may not appear to have much in common…but they all draw inspiration from “Nadine”.

“Nadine” was the first song Berry recorded when he got out of prison (for the second time) in 1963, and it has a verbal flow some rappers still strive to match. At the same time, you can’t get to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” from, say, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” without “Nadine”.

I saw her from the corner when she turned and doubled back,
And started walkin’ toward a coffee colored Cadillac;
I was pushin’ through the crowd tryna get to where she’s at,
And I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat.

As Charlie Pierce wrote in his appreciation of Berry’s work, “There are not five better lyrics in all of American music better than that verse. Hell, I’m not entirely sure if I can come up with five better verses in all of English poetry if you spotted me Mr. Yeats and the entire Oxford Anthology.

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