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Chuck Berry: 10 Great Collaborations

Hear the late rock legend alongside everyone from Tina Turner, Bo Diddley and Eric Clapton to Sha Na Na

Chuck Berry, a man who famously punched Keith Richards in the face for touching his guitar, wasn’t exactly known as the most of enthusiastic of collaborators. Yet over the course of his lengthy career, the rock & roll legend, who died Saturday at the age of 90, managed to clock in plenty of noteworthy team-ups. They range from the legendary – such as his 1972 TV rock-out with John Lennon and an equally godlike 1995 appearance with Bruce Springsteen – to the lackluster, like his duet with Shabba Ranks on 1995’s “Go Shabba Go.” Here are 10 of Berry’s most historic, intriguing and/or outright outrageous collaborations.

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Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Robert Cray, “Wee Wee Hours” (1986)

Despite that infamous punch, Keith Richards has never wavered in his reverence for Berry; after all, the Rolling Stones’ debut single in 1963 was a cover of Berry’s “Come On.” So it only made sense that Richards spearheaded his hero’s 60th-birthday celebration. Filmed in 1986, the concert documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll featured an all-star band assembled and led by Richards, but also including the guitar frontline of Eric Clapton and Robert Cray – not to mention the birthday boy himself, who took the stage with them for a rendition of Berry’s own 1955 song “Wee Wee Hours.” An uncharacteristically slow song from the typically wild Berry, “Wee Wee Hours” proved a worthy platform for some bluesy, smoldering jamming among the guitar luminaries.

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Chuck Berry and Linda Ronstadt, “Back in the U.S.A.” (1986)

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll trotted out a number of Berry’s big-ticket admirers, but there’s something special about Linda Ronstadt’s pairing with Berry on “Back in the U.S.A.” Ronstadt had long ago proven her prowess on soul and R&B oldies covers such as Betty Everett’s “You’re No Good” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave,” and she brought her gutsy-belting A game to “U.S.A.” Not to be relegated to the background on his 60th birthday, Berry pipes up with call-and-response rejoinders between Ronstadt’s lines, urging her on with enthusiastic hollers of “I’ll bet you did!” and “Sing a song!” That she did.

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Chuck Berry and Etta James, “Rock and Roll Music” (1986)

Etta James launched her career at Chess Records alongside Berry, so naturally his old comrade from the days of the Ecuadors and “Back in the U.S.A.” was on hand to help him celebrate his 60th. The high point of Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, her and Berry’s fiery rendition of “Rock and Roll Music” is a revelation, a heated conversation between Berry’s immortal guitar licks and James’ equally indomitable voice. Not only is it a tour de force performance that proves just how enduring his songwriting has remained, it shows that, given the right environment, even the prickly Berry was capable of putting down his dukes long enough to craft a truly reciprocal and mutually game-upping collaboration.

Chuck Berry, rock & roll Innovator, dead at 90. Watch here.

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