Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Rock & roll guitar starts here." The record is an early instance of the complete rock-and-roll package: youthful subject matter; a small, guitar-driven combo; clear diction; and an atmosphere of unrelenting excitement. The lyrics describe a man driving a V8 Ford chasing his unfaithful girlfriend in her Cadillac Coupe DeVille.What's more rock-and-roll than clear diction? I think if you have great lyrics, you'll do clear diction. That's something about Bob Dylan too: You could always understand the words (maybe not what they really meant, but you could hear the words). If you have lyrics like "On the ship, I dream she there/I smell the rose that's in her hair," you might prefer to mush them into unintelligibility.
I'll offer "Maybellene" for the lyrics: "As I was motivatin' over the hill/I saw Mabellene in a Coupe de Ville/A Cadillac a-rollin' on the open road/Nothin' will outrun my V8 Ford." And Chuck Berry's V8 Ford does in fact overtake that other guy's Cadillac. We never hear about the scene at the top of the hill when Chuck gets to Maybellene, but it doesn't matter. There were 2 cars — representing 2 men — and one was richer but the other was stronger and lasted longer, so we don't need to hear anything more.
Now, you talk about some Chuck Berry lyrics. I will just list a few of the news reports that stress lyrics:
1. Rolling Stone: "Chuck Berry: 20 Essential Songs." This transcribes the Maybellene line as "I was motorvatin' over the hill" and informs us that the woman's name was chosen because of the Maybelline mascara that was lying around in the studio.
2. KL.Fm: "Tributes as 'father of rock and roll' Chuck Berry dies." Quoting Mick Jagger: "His lyrics shone above others & threw a strange light on the American dream."
3. City Pages: "RIP Chuck Berry, inventor of the rock lyric, interpreter of teenage dreams."
“Nadine (Is That You?)” is the Technicolor remake of “Maybelline,” another chase after another woman, but with a cawing saxophone and super-charged language. “I was campaign shouting like a Southern diplomat”? You have the rest of your life -- write one phrase that damn good. There’s probably no better musical advertisement for marriage than the footloose “You Never Can Tell,” about two dumb, wedded New Orleans kids who live happily ever after, shimming and canoodling and subsisting on “TV dinners and ginger ale” (kept in their “coolerator,” Berry will have you know). But best of all, there’s “Promised Land,” in which Chuck skedaddles from Norfolk to L.A. in 2:24 and along the way seems to address every promise of American life and how to get by after it’s broken.4. NYT: "15 Essential Chuck Berry Songs." Spotify playlist. One song is “Too Much Monkey Business” (1956):
No one before Mr. Berry thought to write a pop song about the headaches of paying bills or losing your change in a pay phone. In his 1987 autobiography, he wrote that the lyrics were “meant to describe most of the kinds of hassles a person encounters in everyday life.” The chugging, rapid-fire vocal delivery would inspire Mr. Dylan’s breakthrough word salad “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and when Mr. Berry won the first PEN New England Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award in 2012, Mr. Dylan sent a congratulatory note saying, “That’s what too much monkey business will get ya.”5. Heavy: "Chuck Berry Top Hits: Best Songs to Remember Him By."
In 1963’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” the lyrics describe a man speaking to an operator trying to get in contact with a girl, Marie, who lives in “Memphis, Tennessee.”6. Billboard: "Chuck Berry Didn't Invent Rock n' Roll, But He Turned It Into an Attitude That Changed the World."
It tells a surprisingly complex tale, with the audience being lead to believe that Marie is the man’s girlfriend, only for it to be revealed that she is actually his daughter, with it being implied that the man’s ex-wife took Marie away.
As for his songwriting, Berry eschewed generic emotional confessions and instead focused on crafting short stories with his lyrics. His songwriting style -- economical, vivid and enveloping -- influenced everyone from Paul McCartney to Ray Davies to Brian Wilson and set the course for rock to favor the short and sweet instead of the poetic and verbose. That's just not something his contemporaries were pioneering -- Little Richard's lyrics were brilliant nonsense, Bo Diddley's were stream of consciousness poetry, and Elvis Presley didn't write his own material. So Berry's introduction of storytelling into rock can't be overstated, particularly since that's what helped the genre stand out from straight pop in its first few decades.7. Campus News: "Giants of pop owe it all to Chuck Berry."
John Lennon once said, “In the’50s, when people were just singing virtually about nothing, he was writing social-comment songs; he was writing all kinds of songs with incredible meter to the lyrics, which influenced Dylan and me and many other people.”...
Berry... sued Lennon for pilfering his lyrics for The Beatles’ “Come Together”… and won that case, too. (It was settled out of court.)