Rolling Stones songs: Roll Over Beethoven
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Well, if you feel you like it/ Go get your lover, then reel and rock it….
Written by: Chuck Berry
Recorded: Saturday Club, BBC radio, Oct. 26 1963
“Roll Over Beethoven” is a 1956 hit song written by Chuck Berry, originally released on Chess Records single, with “Drifting Heart” as the B-side. The lyrics of the song mention rock and roll and the desire for rhythm and blues to replace classical music. The title of the song is an imperative directed at the composer Ludwig van Beethoven to roll over out of the way and make room for the rock and roll music that Berry was promoting. The song has been covered by many other artists, including the Beatles and the Electric Light Orchestra. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 97 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
According to Rolling Stone[ and Cub Koda of AllMusic, Berry wrote the song in response to his sister Lucy always using the family piano to play classical music when Berry wanted to play popular music. It was, as biographer Bruce Pegg says, “inspired in part by the rivalry between his sister Lucy’s classical music training and Berry’s own self-taught, rough-and-ready music preference”. The lyric “roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news” refers to how classical composers would roll over in their graves upon hearing that classical music had given way to rock and roll.
In addition to the classical composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the lyrics mention or allude to several popular artists: “Early in the Mornin'” is the title of a Louis Jordan song; “Blue Suede Shoes” refers to the Carl Perkins song; and “hey diddle diddle”, from the nursery rhyme “The Cat and the Fiddle”, is an indirect reference to the Chess recording artist Bo Diddley, who was an accomplished violin player. Although the lyrics mention “rocking” and “rolling”, the music that the classics are supposed to step aside for is referred to as “rhythm and blues”. The lyric “a shot of rhythm and blues” was appropriated as the title of a song recorded by Arthur Alexander and others.
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