As Rock and Roll is concerned, there was no one bigger than Chuck Berry–no one that more great musicians credited with their own successes, and no one more synonymous with the music multiple generations think of when they hear a singer holding a guitar leading a band with a lively, loud, and fast rhythm, bending guitar strings and blending styles, as well as the very image of the brash, cocky headliner across the world today we know simply as the “rock star”. Berry passed away this weekend at the age of 90. Unforgettable hits Johnny B. Goode, Maybelline, No Particular Place To Go, Roll Over Beethoven, My Ding-a-Ling, My Tambourine, and Sweet Little Sixteen only highlight his long career.
Even modern generations know his name thanks to a joke in Back to the Future, where Michael J. Fox plays his trademark song Johnny B. Goode with a band that happens to include a fictional cousin of Chuck Berry named Marvin. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys all incorporated elements from Berry’s music, including covering his songs. John Lennon said of Berry, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might have called it Chuck Berry.” Berry never stopped performing. Only five years ago Berry performed Johnny B. Goode at a concert in his honor with modern legends including fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC. And a new album was in the works.
Chuck Berry with Carl Sagan at a concert commemorating the Voyager accomplishments.
NASA and outer space enthusiasts will remember that Chuck Berry performing Johnny B. Goode is one of only two modern American songs included on the Voyager space probe golden records, which we’ve discussed before here at borg.com. The Voyager missions are celebrating their 40th year in space in 2017. The selection of music was made by Carl Sagan and the small team that collected music and images for the records (the complete playlist is listed here). By our count this leaves only one remaining living performer whose music was featured on the albums: Valya Balkanska, a Bulgarian folk singer whose song “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” was included on the golden records. Balkanska is 75 years old, and performed the song for the album at age 30.
Where are the Voyager space probes, and Chuck Berry’s historic albums, now?
Yesterday the last man to walk on the Moon, Apollo 17 commander Capt. Eugene Cernan, passed away at age 82. Of the 24 men who visited the Moon and the 12 that walked on its surface Cernan leaves only six remaining men who actually walked on the Moon’s surface: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), Dave Scott (Apollo 15), John Young (Apollo 16), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17). A three-time space traveler, Cernan was the pilot on Apollo 10 and had previously flown on a Gemini mission. He served as backup crew for Gemini 12, Apollo 7, and Apollo 14.
“Curiosity is the essence of human existence and exploration has been part of humankind for a long time. The exploration of space, like the exploration of life, if you will, is a risk. We’ve got to be willing to take it,” Cernan said. Cernan passed away on the annual day America observed the contributions of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he, too, recently recounted a dream. “I was just a young kid in America growing up with a dream. Today what’s most important to me is my desire to inspire the passion in the hearts and minds of future generations of young men and women to see their own impossible dreams become a reality.”
The best tribute to Cernan and his contemporaries is the continuing exploration and discovery missions of NASA, which will be the subject of several documentaries this year on PBS. In particular, August will be a big month for space aficionados.
The documentary The Farthest will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager space program. As discussed extensively previously here at borg.com, the Voyager probes continue their role as the farthest humans have stretched their technology into space. The only objects to ever enter interstellar space are Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 2 was the first to launch forty years ago, on August 20, 1977.
Where are they now?
After spending nearly 11,000 workyears on the Voyager space program so far, or one-third of the estimated effort required to build the great pyramid at Giza, the Voyager space probes are currently in the “Heliosheath” – the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas, more than 19 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 1, and 9.5 billion miles from Earth for Voyager 2. Thirty-nine years ago this past August 22, Voyager 2 was launched and a few weeks later on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 was launched. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN), according to NASA.
The focus of the original mission for the Voyager probes was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making several discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and photographing the intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended, with Voyager 2 going on to explore Uranus and Neptune–the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The current mission–Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM)–is exploring the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. In 2008 the probes were two of only a handful of objects that man had successfully sent beyond the edge of our solar system.
What the Voyager program did that no other program has done is send a distinct and comprehensive message to be intercepted at some point by a hopefully intelligent and friendly lifeform somewhere beyond our own solar system. The means was a golden record and record player. The music and sounds found on that record are the subject of a current Kickstarter campaign, seeking to release an LP version of the Voyager record to the public for the first time. Back in the 1980s you could buy a limited box set that included the book Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record (an indispensable Voyager reference) as well as a CD of the complete music, languages and sounds and a CD-ROM of the photos included on the space record. We first discussed the golden record and CD-ROM set here at borg.com five years ago. Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth book and disc set is still available from time to time at Amazon from $100 on up for the deluxe set. The book alone is also available and is inexpensive despite being long out of print.