In Back To The Future II, we learn that traveling forward in time, after having altered the past, lands the traveler into an alternate present or future compared to the one they originally left.

enter image description here
(Thanks to @Xantec for the image)

However, in Back to the Future I, it is clearly implied that Marty's performance of Johnny B. Goode at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance was the inspiration for Chuck Berry's composition of the song.

If, in the altered past, Marty is the inspiration for Johnny B. Goode, then how did Chuck Berry come up with it in the original timeline? Could this be a paradox?


Back To The Future: Time Travel Paradox

  • Somebody's been reading Overthinkingit.com back issues? :) Dec 7, 2012 at 3:12
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    I like to think that Chuck had just put the finishing touches on the song when he got the call. Mar 17, 2015 at 19:13
  • How do we know that "Chuck" (Marvin Berry's cousin) was THE Chuck Berry? I witnessed an amusing situation a few months ago when some of my friends went to watch a gig performed by "me" - only it wasn't me, it was a singer/guitarist with the same name as me. In the BttF universe, there may have been more than one person known as Chuck Berry, unrelated to each other...
    – Wallnut
    Jul 10, 2017 at 14:39

3 Answers 3


Actually, you are very wrong when you say:

"it is clearly implied that Marty's performance of Johnny B. Goode at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance was the inspiration for Chuck Berry's composition of the song."

If you watch the movie carefully, most of the actual Johnny B. Goode song is performed BEFORE the phone call, so what Chuck Berry gets to hear over the phone is the godawful metal shred that would forever live in infamy.

Evidence: Watch ~1:30mins into this clip


According to Wikipedia, Chuck Berry wrote the song in 1955 and it came out in 1958. If one assumes Marty is 18, then he was born in 1966 or 1967. Marty definitely didn't write the song.

So, in the original timeline, Chuck Berry invented the song. Marty heard it later.

Chuck Berry hears Marty performing the song over the phone (in 1955). In a way this means he 'stole' the song :) - but he indirectly stole it from himself.

That makes it very intersting: one could say he stole it from the other Chuck Berry from the other timeline (the timeline splits, as the picture so nicely shows).

That Chuck Berry is the one who wrote the song. He had to have.

I wouldn't say it is exactly a time paradox.


Presumably Chuck Berry is an accomplished musician and songwriter in either timeline. What prevents him from spontaneously composing it?

You're overthinking this way too much. There's no evidence, not even circumstantial, that he's incapable of doing it on his own.

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    Hmmm... He was looking for a new sound. I suppose he could have done it without Marty. Dec 7, 2012 at 0:50
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    The bootstrap paradox is a paradox of time travel in which information or objects can exist without having been created. After information or an object is sent back in time, it is recovered in the present and becomes the very object/information that was initially brought back in time in the first place. Numerous science fiction stories are based on this paradox, which has also been the subject of serious physics articles. Dec 7, 2012 at 1:19
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    The bootstrap paradox only refers to physical objects or unknowable information. A song can be invented/discovered without any outside influence. You might as well ask how Chuck Berry managed to do it in the real world, since this question implies he could not have done so unless Marty McFly really traveled in time and performed it for him...
    – John O
    Dec 7, 2012 at 3:33
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    "Overthinking this way too much." That's practically a pre-requisite for posting on this site. Nov 2, 2015 at 18:03

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