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Hail! Hail! Rock-n-Roll (1987)Hail! Hail! Rock-n-Roll (1987)

This music documentary chronicles two concerts in 1986 that were organized to celebrate the 60th birthday of the rock legend Chuck Berry (1926–2017). The film includes 19 songs by Berry and his ensemble that was headed by Keith Richards, and included guest performers Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, Julian Lennon, and others. The two concerts were held at Berry's hometown Fox Theater in St. Louis, where, as Berry recalls in the film, he was turned away as a little boy because of racist segregation. In addition to the concert footage, the film also includes Berry's own narration of his life and work, pre-concert rehearsals, and interviews with people who knew him — most notably Richards, his parents and siblings, other musicians like Roy Orbison, and a hilarious story told by a very young Bruce Springsteen who recounts what it was like to be the local backup band that was Berry's standard practice. This is a feel-good movie that ignores the numerous controversies that surrounded this complicated artist. The title of the film comes from a line in Berry's song "School Days." I watched this film on Amazon Prime Streaming. For more on this subject, see the one-hour documentary by PBS called "Chuck Berry" (2021).

Dan Clendenin:

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