Chuck Berry won't sing for "Johnny" in election

SAO PAULO Mon Jun 9, 2008 6:41pm EDT

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry performs during a concert in Burgos, northern Spain, November 25, 2007 REUTERS/Felix Ordonez

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry performs during a concert in Burgos, northern Spain, November 25, 2007

Credit: Reuters/Felix Ordonez

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Republican candidate John McCain may have used his song in the U.S. presidential campaign, but veteran rock 'n' roller Chuck Berry has no doubt whom he wants to see in the White House next year.

"America has finally come to this point where you can pick a man of color and that not be a drawback," the legendary 81-year-old guitarist said of Barack Obama, who clinched the Democratic presidential nomination last week and would become the country's first black president if he wins in November.

"It's no question, myself being a man of color ... I mean, you have to feel good about it," Berry, himself a black pioneer in the 1950s music scene, told Reuters by phone from New York ahead of a Brazil tour that starts next week.

"Definitely a proud and successful moment for all the people of this country, not just black people, but Americans in general."

McCain, now preparing to take on Obama in the November presidential election, used Berry's hit "Johnny B. Goode" as an early campaign theme, although he has since switched to Abba's "Take a Chance On Me."

"Johnny B. Goode" turned 50 in January and topped the list of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time that Rolling Stone magazine published this month.

"In the '50s there were certain places we couldn't ride on the bus," Berry said. "And now there is a possibility of a black man being in White House. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last," he said, quoting the words of a Negro spiritual song famously invoked by assassinated civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr.

The first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, known as the "father of rock 'n' roll," Berry has been on tour since the start of the year in the United States and Europe.

Berry has not released an album of new material since 1979's "Rock It." But he has been promising one since 2001 and it may be close to becoming a reality.

"There are definitely plans for a new record. And we may have more on that by the time we get there in Brazil ... But we can't release any names yet," he said.

Until then, Berry doesn't mind playing the same old songs. Neither do his fans, who will pay more than $100 a ticket in Brazil to hear his hits "Memphis", "Maybellene", "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Sweet Little Sixteen".

"(Those songs) never get old and you can't never forget where you came from," he said. "The old have become classic, because classic never dies."

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Cynthia Osterman)

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