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Brian Wilson

Chuck Berry brought a poet's touch — and respectability — to a brash new style of music

Chuck Berry brought a poet's touch — and respectability — to a brash new style of music

One of the original knocks against teen-oriented rock music in the 1950s, when the form was born, came from an earlier generation that had grown up with the sophisticated, erudite songs of composers and lyricists such as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Next to such songs that were almost Shakespearean in their literary maturity, “Rock Around the Clock,” “Hound Dog” and other early rock hits sounded positively primitive by comparison.

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog”? Really? Members of the Greatest Generation often groused.

But then along came Chuck Berry, who wedded smart lyrical wordplay with the blistering energy of an...

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