The Promised Land

Chuck Berry’s Promised Land has always been special to me. I left England in 1973 after finishing my MSc, then traveled across the US to Stanford, and still remember driving across the Bay Bridge for the first time into San Francisco, my promised land.

Then I went to my first Grateful Dead show (of 200) on 11/9/73, and the first song I ever heard them play live was Promised Land, the story of my previous few months.

Today, the NYT Travel section had a feature story on this song, describing every detail I knew and many I didn’t. Wonderful, wonderful. Just one tidbit: “bypassed Rock Hill” — I never knew this was were John Lewis was beaten for opening a “Whites only” door in 1961.

Reed College Music prof Mark Burford: “In that passing reference to Rock Hill – just 3 words – it opens up a whole other interpretation of the song. It’s very sly.”