Credit where credit is due, Chuck Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017) was an American Negro guitarist, singer and songwriter and one of the most prominent pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as ‘Maybellene’ (1955), ‘Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), ‘Rock and Roll Music’ (1957) and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ (1958). Berry is credited with having refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive.
For those who are aficionados of rock and roll music it is only right that Berry’s roll in the development of that genre of music is recognised, however the announcements that have been made over the last two days following his death, have most notably tended to overlook a major aspect of his persona in a way that would never have been allowed if Berry had been White.
We are all familiar with dark and seedier aspects of the lives of White celebrities such as Gary Glitter, Jimmy Savile and Rolfe Harris. Stories of their inappropriate and often criminal behaviour with underage victims have been widely publicised in order to act as a counter to stories of child sexual grooming by immigrant gangs here in the UK. So anxious have the authorities and media moguls been that revelations about the extensive nature of the grooming, rape and induction into sex slavery of underage White girls by largely Pakistani Muslim gangs will arouse public indignation, they have adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against any White offender, to such an extent that cases of historic sexual misconduct going back as far as four decades in some cases, have been dredged up and given widespread, often lurid publicity.
In recent years, not even rock and roll pioneer Cliff Richard was accorded any deference on account of his celebrity status and high profile Christian campaigning, as subsequently unsubstantiated stories alleging historic inappropriate sexual misconduct were allowed to irreparably damage his reputation, and were regarded as justification for the televised violation of his home by the police.
There have been widespread and sustained accounts of a relatively small number of offences committed by individual celebrity perverts, in many instances where the offences are decades old and often relate to offences, which while distressing for the victims, are at the least extreme end of the offending scale. Coverage of these cases has been used by the media as a counter to revelations of organised criminal activity, by largely Pakistani Muslim gangs, in which literally thousands of victims have been racially selected and targeted and systematically groomed and lured into drug dependency and child prostitution, where they were then been abused on literally tens of thousands of occasions, by hundreds, if not thousands of paying child rapists.
It is our view at Western Spring that all cases involving the rape and sexual abuse of young and vulnerable individuals should be investigated and the culprits punished. We are not arguing here for any leniency for any class of perpetrators, celebrity or otherwise, we are simply pointing out a glaring anomaly when one takes into account the race or ethnicity of the perpetrators involved.
Born into a middle-class Negro family in St. Louis, Missouri, Chuck Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave his first public performance at Sumner High School. However, in 1944 while still a student at Sumner High School, he was arrested for armed robbery after robbing three shops in Kansas City, Missouri, and then stealing a car at gunpoint with some friends. He was convicted and sent to the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men at Algoa, near Jefferson City, Missouri and was released from the reformatory on his 21st birthday in 1947.
Then in December 1959, he was arrested under the Mann Act after allegations that he had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old Apache waitress, Janice Escalante, whom he had transported across state lines to work as a hatcheck girl at his club.
After a two-week trial in March 1960, he was convicted, fined $5,000, and sentenced to five years in prison. Berry’s sentence was reduced on appeal and he was sentenced to three years in prison, serving just one and one-half years, from February 1962 to October 1963.
In the late 1980s, Berry bought The Southern Air, a restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri, and in 1990 he was sued by several women who claimed that he had installed a video camera in the ladies’ toilets. Berry claimed he had the camera installed in an attempt to catch a worker who was suspected of stealing from the restaurant. Though his guilt was never proved in court, Berry opted for a class action settlement with 59 women.
It was reported that a police raid on Berry’s house at the time found videotapes of women using the restroom, and one of the women was a minor. Also found in the raid were 62 grams of marijuana. Felony drug and child-abuse charges were filed by the police, but in order to avoid the child-abuse charges, Berry agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanour possession of marijuana. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years’ unsupervised probation and was ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.
In view of his history as a robber, a drug felon, a voyeuristic pervert and pederast, if not a paedophile, it is surprising that he is still being lauded by news media following his death, in stark contrast to the treatment meted out by the authorities and the media to several White perpetrators, some of which have been accused and convicted of less serious crimes. In news programmes reporting his death, Berry has been spoken of using a range of superlatives describing him as a music legend, and there has been scant mention of his criminal predilections with his offences either not being mentioned or mentioned only in terms that minimise their seriousness.
Clearly the difference between Chuck Berry on the one hand, and Gary Glitter, Jimmy Savile and Rolfe Harris on the other, is that Berry was a Black man and the media are therefore comfortable that in the interests of racial harmony and multiculturalism, his past criminal conduct can be overlooked.
By Max Musson © 2017
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