The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen reminded me of a favorite topic: the musician as inventor. I refer to the invention of objects, techniques, and concepts. It’s invention in the service of an art form. For instance, musical instruments are invented, then shaped with further inventions which make additional modifications possible. Musicians have always been inventors. Here are some of my favorite examples.
Rock and Roll Itself
The invention of rock music, with its pedigree of blues, gospel, and so on, is these days commonly attributed to Chuck Berry in the early 1950s. Berry produced the musical mutant that would conquer the world when he combined rhythm and blues with country and western guitar licks, then packaged it with guitar solos and other showmanship. His signature duck walk may be considered a lasting invention, still in use by Angus Young of AC/DC who credits Berry for, well, everything. Berry was influenced by Sister Loretta Tharpe, whose 1944 song, “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” is sometimes considered the first rock record.