Rock n roll pioneer Berry passed away last month (March 18). Read NME‘s obituary.
Writing a tribute to Berry for Rolling Stone, Richards described the late musician as “the granddaddy of us all” and “incredibly versatile”.
He also described an incident which saw Berry punch him. “Chuck Berry once gave me a black eye, which I later called his greatest hit,” Richards wrote, adding: “We saw him play in New York somewhere, and afterward I was backstage in his dressing room, where his guitar was lying in its case. I wanted to look, out of professional interest, and as I’m just plucking the strings, Chuck walked in and gave me this wallop to the frickin’ left eye. But I realized I was in the wrong. If I walked into my dressing room and saw somebody fiddling with my ax, it would be perfectly all right to sock ’em, you know? I just got caught.”
Richards added: “He would do things like throw me offstage, too. I always took that as a reverse compliment, sort of as a sign of respect – because otherwise he wouldn’t bother with me. He was a little prickly, but at the same time there was a very warm guy underneath that he wasn’t that willing to display. There were other times between us when we’re sitting around and rehearsing, and going, ‘Man, you know, between us we got that shit down” – and there would be a beautiful, different feeling.”
On learning of Berry’s death, Richards said: “When I got the call that he was gone, it wasn’t a total, unexpected shock, but I kind of got the strange feeling that I remembered when Buddy Holly died. I was in school, and this whisper started to go around the classroom. The whole class gave this collective gasp of horror. This was that same blow to the gut. It hit me harder than I expected. But Chuck certainly hung in there. There’s another thing I hope to emulate.”
The Rolling Stones frequently covered Chuck Berry’s music. Listen to their version of ‘Come On’ below.