Although rock ‘n’ roll might seem somewhat dated to the average glue-sniffing 14-year old knocking one off to Miley Cyrus, Berry was bragging about teenagers, cars and money long before Nicki Minaj blathered on about hoes, bling and escalades. And whilst this feature may not be considered a fitting eulogy to the man who many hold in high regard as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, it will hopefully make you stop and think about just why we allow our revered celebrities to get away with— well, anything really.
Nowadays if you wrote a song called ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ you’d likely be under criminal investigation quicker than you could say Operation Yewtree. But we appear to have an incredibly toxic relationship with our celebrities – if we like them they can seemingly do no wrong. We turn a blind-eye to the sexual appetites of Jimmy Page, Bill Wyman, Steve Tyler, Iggy Pop and Elvis – all of whom had sex with girls under the age of 16. We’re all fully aware that Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year old cousin whilst still being married to someone else, yet screw up our noses in utter disgust at the mere mention of Gary Glitter. Are our memories that selective?
In 1962 (aged 36) Berry was convicted of transporting a 14-year old girl across state lines for ‘immoral purposes’ which under the Mann Act (1910) refers specifically to the ‘intention of engaging an individual in sexual activity or prostitution.’
The young girl Berry trafficked was in fact a prostitute and claims they had sex on multiple occasions. Initially our man, ‘Johnny B-ehave’ was sentenced to 5-years in the federal slammer, however the case was thrown out due to the presiding judge making a racist remark. Despite this, a second jury also found him guilty sending him down for a whopping… 20-months. Some years later, Berry was also charged with three counts of child-abuse relating to the seizure of child pornography.
And let us not forget the infamous bathroom incidents! It transpires that not only did Mr. Berry like his girls young but that he also enjoyed hooking up spy cams in public toilets so that he could covertly watch the ladies do their number ones and number twos. Berry amassed quite a collection and allegedly edited together hours of footage including freeze-framed ‘best bits’ – a wipe here or a shake there maybe. Again, many of the females in question were underage. On this occasion Berry managed to evade prosecution by paying off the women to the tune of over $1-million. Spending a penny, indeed.
Yet still we doff our caps to the ‘musical legend’ with the funny duck walk, and shrug off the uncomfortable truth that Berry was in fact a massive perverted nonce. Can you imagine if Ed Sheeran decided to date a 13-year old fan, or was caught with indecent images of underage girls on his iPhone? What is with this double standard? Why on earth do we simply rap the knuckles of our bygone celebrity icons with a ‘wasn’t he a naughty boy!?’ sort of attitude? It could be argued by some that we are not celebrating the private lives of these individuals, moreover we are simply celebrating their ‘art’ and ‘creative genius’. And of course, they must have a point.
Let me just dig out my old Rolf Harris drawings and Jim’ll Fix It badge whilst I mull this one over.