Some of my favorite drawings, the ones I made during what I consider my ‘heydays’ of productivity – the eighties and nineties – feature star musicians, many of whom have died by now. I realize what a treat it has been to be in their presence, observing them do what they did best: give their all, sweat, holler, jump, curse, laugh, joke, make music!
Here’s the first in a line of four:
Chuck Berry was a mesmerizing, trailblazing musician and a real bad boy who was convicted at some point for allegedly sleeping with under-age girls, among other naughty misdeeds he was nailed for, but his towering musical legacy turns all that into a mere sidebar. Thank goodness he didn’t live to experience today’s ‘cancel culture.’
This handsome man had a penchant for really tacky and loud polyester shirts. So this artist-girl loves him for that. And he rocks like crazy of course; the term Rock ‘n Roll was invented when he appeared on the wider scene in the ‘fifties and gained fame, not only for his blues and country-infused guitar chops, but for his famous duck-walk off stage at the end of the gig. The Rolling Stones owe everything to him. Keith Richards acknowledges this in his glowing tributes to Berry in his autobiography called ‘Life.’
This portrait of him was drawn ‘live and kicking’ at the Coliseum stadium in Vancouver with my sketchpad resting on the fence between the stage and the pulsating throngs pushing up against my back.
I stood less than 5 metres away from Chuck, only separated from him by the fence and a security guard eyeing the crowd from behind it. Because the stage was some three metres higher than my point of view, his left hand is huge for dramatic effect while, I think, it also emphasizes his powerful guitar playing.
As far as I can remember, I got in because I knew the impresario and the drawing was going to be published in the Sun to accompany the concert’s review, so I arrived early to stake out my spot in the very front. This is still my proudest drawing ever. It hangs in my living room at home: Chuck Berry will always be my all-time favorite bad boy.