“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry,” said John Lennon (at least according to urban legend). The rock pioneer — who passed away on Mar. 18, 2017 at the age of 90 — impacted the Billboard charts over such a long period of time that their names and criteria changed over the course of his career. So, while it’s hard to name his biggest hit, here’s a chronological list of some of Berry’s Billboard highlights — also known as some of the songs that made rock music what it is today.
Berry’s first recorded single (and what’s generally cited as one of the first rock songs) spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart — and he only committed it to wax at the behest of Muddy Waters.
“Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)” (1956)
The song, a tribute to Hank Williams and favorite of country stars over the years, peaked at No. 8 on the R&B chart.
“Roll Over Beethoven” (1956)
“Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (1957)
The B-side — read by some as a comment on racial tensions at the time — peaked at No. 8 on the R&B chart.
“School Day” (1957)
One of his biggest tracks ever, the song peaked at No. 3 on the pop chart (the equivalent of today’s Hot 100).
“Rock & Roll Music” (1958)
As the fever for rock n’ roll grew, Berry capitalized by making rock songs about rock music — a tradition that lives on today. This one peaked at No. 6 on the R&B chart.
“Sweet Little Sixteen” (1958)
This somewhat questionable track probably sounds familiar — it’s the exact same music as The Beach Boys‘ 1963 single “Surfin’ U.S.A.” This version, though, still spent three weeks atop the R&B chart and reached No. 2 on the pop chart.
“Johnny B. Goode” (1958)
This seminal tune, which peaked at No. 5 on the R&B chart and No. 9 on the pop chart, earned a spot on the Voyager Golden Record and in Back To The Future (remember Marvin Berry and the Starlighters?)
“Almost Grown” (1959)
“Back in the U.S.A.” (1964)
This track would be covered by Linda Ronstadt in 1978, reaching No. 16 on the Hot 100.
“Nadine (Is It You?)” (1964)
This influential track (critics have noted its lyrical similarities to Bob Dylan‘s Bringing It All Back Home, released the following year) peaked at No. 7 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs.
“No Particular Place To Go” (1964)
“You Never Can Tell” (1964)
This track, which hit No. 14 on the Hot 100, also became a hit for Emmylou Harris… and Quentin Tarantino, who featured it in Pulp Fiction.
“My Ding-A-Ling” (1972)
This novelty track (yes, it’s about what you think it’s about) spent two weeks atop the Hot 100… what can we say, the ’70s must have been a weird time.