Today, the legendary Chuck Berry turns 86 years old—and he’s still kicking, next appearing at the American Music Masters tribute to him on Oct. 27. His influence on rock ‘n’ roll is immeasurable, so to celebrate his legacy, we’re counting down 20 of the best Chuck Berry covers below.
20. Neko Case, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”
Case recorded this version in 2004 as part of Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson to pay tribute to the queen of rockabilly’s rendition of the tune.
19. The Animals, “Around and Around”
Just like nearly all of their British Invasion counterparts, The Animals were heavily influenced by Chuck Berry and covered many of his tracks. They also recorded versions of “Memphis, Tennessee,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Too Much Monkey Business,” but “Around and Around” is their best Berry effort.
18. Elvis Presley, “Too Much Monkey Business”
Like Berry, Presley blended country and R&B influences to create his recognizable rock ‘n’ roll sound, so tackling one of his songs is a no-brainer. “Too Much Monkey Business” almost sounds like it could be an Elvis original.
17. M. Ward, “Roll Over Beethoven”
Those who only know M. Ward as “that guy who plays guitar with Zooey Deschanel in She & Him” (if that’s you, shame on you, you’ve got plenty of listening to do) may not be aware that Ward can rock. Here’s all the evidence you need.
16. The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Almost Grown”
John Sebastian and company recorded this as a demo way back when they were trying to get signed by Elektra Records. The label released it as part of What’s Shakin, a compilation of demos submitted to them, back in 1966. Interestingly, The Lovin’ Spoonful never wound up signing to Elektra, but “Almost Grown” lives on.
15. The Beach Boys, “School Days”
The Beach Boys’ relationship to Chuck Berry is a notoriously tumultuous one, with Berry suing for and winning a songwriting credit on Surfin’ USA due to its overwhelming similarity to “Sweet Little Sixteen.” It’s sort of fitting, then, that decades later they’d pay tribute to him by recording “School Days,” a track Berry himself repurposed later in his career, changing the lyrics but keeping the same melody to make “No Particular Place to Go.”
14. Duane Allman, “No Money Down”
Allman recorded this bluesy cover in 1969 at Muscle Shoals, but it wasn’t released until 1974, after his untimely death, as part of the Anthology Volume II album.
13. Wanda Jackson, “Memphis, Tennessee”
This track makes perfect sense for this rockabilly queen, although she’s relatively understated here and brings a more straightforward country delivery to “Memphis, Tennessee.”
12. The Kinks, “Beautiful Delilah”
Dave Davies takes over lead vocals on this cover, which appeared on The Kinks’ 1964 self-titled debut.
11. Emmylou Harris, “You Never Can Tell”
Harris puts her own spin on this Berry classic, turning it into a country track that you can still twist to.
10. John Lennon, “Sweet Little Sixteen”
Berry’s influence on the Beatles is enormous, and John Lennon recorded it for Rock ‘n’ Roll, his 1975 album of “oldies” covers.
9. David Bowie, “Round and Round (AKA Around and Around)”
This beloved Bowie rarity was originally the b-side to “Drive-In Saturday,” and it appears as a bonus track on the 30th anniversary reissue of Ziggy Stardust.
8. Simon & Garfunkel, “Maybellene”
Simon & Garfunkel are another group you don’t necessarily think of when you think “rock,” but they memorably tacked this “Maybellene” cover onto the end of “Kodachrome” during their 1981 Concert in Central Park, delivering a cover that contains their distinct harmonies while staying relatively true to the original.
7. The Rolling Stones, “Bye Bye Johnny”
Few bands have recorded as many Chuck Berry covers as The Rolling Stones—in fact, their very first single, released 50 years ago, was a take in Berry’s “Come On.” “Bye Bye Johnny” first appeared on their debut EP in 1964 and features the sneering Mick Jagger vocals that would make these lads famous.
6. Bruce Springsteen, “Little Queenie”
The Boss has been known to work a Chuck Berry number or two into his live show over the years, and here he transforms 2:45 original into a bluesy, nine-minute epic.
5. The Band, “Back to Memphis”
Levon Helm’s expert drumming and inspired vocals steal the show on this live cut, a Moondog Matinee outtake.
4. Jimi Hendrix, “Johnny B. Goode”
What could be better than a guitar god like Jimi Hendrix delivering his take on arguably the most recognizable guitar song of all time? Hendrix doesn’t hold back either, absolutely tearing through the track.
3. MC5, “Back in the USA”
These protopunks demonstrate the true scope of Chuck Berry’s influence. Back in the USA—which holds the Berry number in such high regard it takes its name from it—would go on to pave the way for further generations of punk and garage rockers, proving genres that don’t owe Berry a debt of gratitude are hard to come by.
2. The Beatles, “Roll Over Beethoven”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison bonded over this track way back when they were still The Quarrymen, so perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to say that without Chuck Berry, the biggest and most beloved band of all time may not have come together. Harrison handles lead vocals on this With The Beatles version.
1. The Rolling Stones, “Carol”
Released on their full-length debut (The Rolling Stones in the UK, England’s Newest Hit Makers on this side of the pond), “Carol” perfectly encapsulates the Brits’ affinity for American music, as the Stones remind us all why we dug this tune in the first place. Berry and Keith Richards famously bickered while rehearsing this number in the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n Roll documentary, but ultimately, even Chuck Berry winds up smiling over Richards’ riffs. Just keep your hands off his amp.
And just for good measure…Back to the Future
“Chuck! Chuck! It’s Marvin! Your cousin, Marvin Berry? You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, LISTEN TO THIS!”