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Here's How Carl Sagan Ensured That Chuck Berry's Music Would Resonate Across Galaxies

Chuck Berry's 'adolescent' music will beat the confines of time due to Sagan forever enclosing it in the voyager spacecrafts
PUBLISHED MAY 30, 2024
Cover Image Source: PARIS - NOVEMBER 14: Singer Chuck Berry performs at the 'Les Legendes Du Rock and Roll' concert at the Zenith on November 14, 2008 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
Cover Image Source: PARIS - NOVEMBER 14: Singer Chuck Berry performs at the 'Les Legendes Du Rock and Roll' concert at the Zenith on November 14, 2008 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)

Music is known to transcend geographical, linguistic, and cultural boundaries with several exceptional artists who became global icons, inspiring fans across generations. But imagine someone's tunes resonating across the cosmos in an attempt to reach beings across galaxies. Chuck Berry bid adieu to the world in 2017, but thanks to a gesture from his long-time fan Carl Sagan, his songs managed to trespass even the confines of our planet. Sagan was dedicated to the cause of establishing contact with extraterrestrial beings his entire life, and when two Voyager spacecraft were sent for this objective into outer space in 1977, he was put in charge of incorporating items within them that could explain to aliens about humans, as reported by Inc.

Image Source: 20th March 1974: Portrait of American astronomer and author Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996) leaning his elbows on his knees and smiling in a laboratory at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He is wearing a turtleneck sweater. (Photo by Santi Visalli Inc./Getty Images)
Image Source: 20th March 1974: Portrait of American astronomer and author Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996) leaning his elbows on his knees and smiling in a laboratory at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He is wearing a turtleneck sweater. (Photo by Santi Visalli Inc./Getty Images)

Sagan and his team incorporated audio and visual elements, and while the images included pictures of humans eating and drinking, landscapes, DNA, and a page of Sir Isaac Newton's writings, the audio comprised of whale sounds, an hour-long recording of the brain waves of Ann Druyan, and songs. Among the tracks sent out for aliens to discover, "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry was also on the voyage. A setup of LPs made of gold-plated copper and turntables was put in the spaceship for the extraterrestrial beings to easily access the audio. The materials were chosen, keeping in mind their durability and a detailed description and diagram about playing a record on a turntable was provided in the spaceships. 

Image Source: CIRCA 1968: Rock and roll musician Chuck Berry does the splits as he plays his Gibson hollowbody electric guitar in circa 1968. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Image Source: CIRCA 1968: Rock and roll musician Chuck Berry does the splits as he plays his Gibson hollowbody electric guitar in circa 1968. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The inclusion of Berry's song was not met with a positive reception, as reported by the Independent, since the song was considered "adolescent" because of its genre. Sagan's reply to this was, "There are a lot of adolescents on the planet," and that the aim was to present the full picture of what it was to be a human, which was incomplete without the "adolescent" parts. Sagan refused to step back, and ultimately Berry's song took flight with those two voyagers. Sagan and Druyan, nine years after the flight penned a sweet letter to Berry on the occasion of his 60th birthday. In the letter they expressed their admiration for his talent, and pride that his songs will live "forever." By that time the voyagers were a billion miles away from the Earth and Sagan was sure that the mission would be successful and Berry's song "will last a billion years or more." To this date, NASA publishes images captured by the Voyager spacecraft and hopes that soon it will make contact with extra-terrestrial beings.

Image Source: THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 14: Chuck Berry, vocal-guitar, performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Netherlands on 14th July 1995. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)
Image Source: THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 14: Chuck Berry, vocal-guitar, performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Netherlands on 14th July 1995. (Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

Almost two decades after the Voyager spacecraft took flight Sagan succumbed to Cancer. In 2017, Berry also breathed his last and was survived by Themetta “Toddy” Suggs and his 4 children; Ingrid Berry, Charles Berry Jr., Aloha Berry, and Melody Exes Berry-Eskridge, as per Centreville Senitel. Several prominent figures including Barrack Obama and Mick Jagger expressed condolences and paid tributes upon hearing the news of his death. He was a pioneer in the genre of Rock and Roll music and for as long as Voyager flies, his "adolescent" music will thrive all across the universe. 

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