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Chuck Berry, the Rocket Scientists, and the Expensive Gold Record

Even Carl Sagan and the science and engineering guys at NASA apparently think Chuck Berry is the Father of Rock and Roll, and since the launch back in 1977 they have so far spent about a billion and a half dollars sending into space and monitoring the progress of two different copies of Berry's hit recording, "Johnny B. Goode." On both Voyager One and Voyager Two there is a gold record, a record player, and symbolic instructions on how to play the record, which consists of about fifty selections of music from all over planet Earth. (That's about $30,000,000 per song, so far.) Each of the selections lasts a little over two minutes and is supposed to represent the best music of such composers as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Stravinsky. There are also examples of the best and most typical music from all the regions of the world and the best from genres such as jazz and rock and roll. When Dr. Sagan and his brainiacs were deciding which song should represent the best of rock and roll, they almost instantly skipped over Elvis Presley and the Beatles and agreed that it had to be a Chuck Berry song. It probably took some rocket science to figure out which one of Berry's many hit songs to send, but today (almost thirty years later!) Chuck's song about the guitar-playing boy from the Everglades is a few billion miles along the way of this expensive journey that may last for hundreds of thousands of years; and, about 40,000 years from now, the gold record will be passing very close to a Sun-like star that is circled by several Earth-like planets and, therefore, may have some intelligent beings ready to rock and roll. NASA spent a lot of money on sending the Father of Rock and Roll's music trillions of miles across the galaxy to rock another world, so we really hope that a few hundred centuries from now someone is still paying attention down here as well as out there.