Hail, Hail, Rock ‘N Roll
The tagline proclaims, “The whole world knows the music. Nobody knows the man”.
Director Taylor Hackford (Ray) rectifies this situation in his wonderful expose of preeminent musician Chuck Berry who was a prominent pioneer of the idea of singer as songwriter, and a highly influential leader in the infancy of rock ‘n’ roll. Berry is explored and exposed as never before in this revealing, inspiring and energizing documentary. Filmed on location at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, Hackford’s earnest and attentive documentary is an all-star extravaganza revolving around a concert given in Berry’s hometown on the occasion of his 60th birthday.
This lovely and personal account of Chuck Berry is told in the usual documentary fashion, with Berry the man revealed through his own words and those of his friends and colleagues through an entertaining mix of interviews, some vintage behind-the-scenes clips, and live-concert archival footage. The film abounds with a multitude of guest appearances by many legends and luminaries in concert as well as in interviews, including Etta James, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Robert Cray, Julian Lennon, Linda Ronstadt, legendary musicians Bo Diddley, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen (who once opened for Chuck Berry) and Jerry Lee Lewis early in his career.
Although standard in it’s presentation Hackford does an impressive job of capturing Berry’s charismatic performances, his humor, and the uncompromising standards he has set for himself, often presenting Berry as a difficult character, avoiding the trap of idealizing or idolizing him. By showing the enigmatic showmen in all his humanity makes this one of the best and most honest rock films of all time. With its charm and exuberance it’s no wonder that this film has long been a fan favorite and it’s DVD release has been so greatly anticipated.