Did Chuck Berry Have a Co-Writer?

6 Rock Music Studies 30 (2019)

38 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2018 Last revised: 23 Sep 2019

See all articles by Timothy McFarlin

Timothy McFarlin

Samford University - Cumberland School of Law

Date Written: August 5, 2018


On New Year’s Eve 1952, Johnnie Johnson hired Chuck Berry. In the year 2000, he sued him. What happened in between became legend: the creation of songs so wildly influential, John Lennon suggested we might rename rock and roll for the one man to whom they’re credited. In 2000, Johnson claimed in court that those songs should be credited to two men. He lost the suit; the judge ruled that too much time had passed. And that’s what history has thus far recorded: Johnson lost, Berry wrote the songs alone. But here you can read what Berry and Johnson said themselves, under oath, about how the songs were created. History, unlike a court of law, has no statute of limitations. Judge for yourself if Berry had help writing the music to many of his most famous compositions. And read what effectively became the most extensive interview Berry ever gave on his songwriting.

Keywords: Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, Rock and Roll Music, Authorship, Musicology, Copyright, Intellectual Property Law, Willie Dixon, Leonard and Phil Chess, Songwriting, Joint Authorship, Music Composition, Recording

Suggested Citation

McFarlin, Timothy, Did Chuck Berry Have a Co-Writer? (August 5, 2018). 6 Rock Music Studies 30 (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3226721

Timothy McFarlin (Contact Author)

Samford University - Cumberland School of Law ( email )

800 Lakeshore Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35229
United States

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