Chuck Berry Dead at 90
By Joe Gibel
“The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” has died.
Chuck Berry, legendary musician and music pioneer was found Saturday at his home outside St. Louis. He was 90. With songs such as Maybellene, Johnny B. Goode and Roll over Beethoven, Berry helped redefine rhythm and blues music into the major elements that make rock and roll stand out. Berry developed a music style including many guitar solos and showmanship as well as focusing lyrics on teen lifestyle and consumerism.
“Chuck came out when the guitar was not real popular, it was all ballads and teen dream pop. He came out with an electric, bluesy, rock and roll guitar at the forefront of his songs about teenage life in the late 50’s everyday life,” said South River Slim, local blues and rock musician. “It had fantastic word play and a great beat, with the electric guitar all over them.”
Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 18, 1926. He was inspired to pick up the guitar after singing in a high school talent show.
Maybellene a rewrite of an old country tune called Ida Red was released in 1955. Within a few weeks, it had topped the R&B charts and hit No. 5 on the Billboard pop charts. Berry became an overnight star, and the hits kept coming.
Berry had a rough patch starting in 1959, arrested for transporting an underage woman across state lines. He was convicted in 1960 and was sentenced to three years, but served 20 months.
In 1963 Berry’s music reached a new generation when The Beach Boys re-worked his song Sweet Little Sixteen into Surfin’ U.S.A. The Beatles and Rolling Stones also covered his songs. This helped rejuvenate Berry’s career and he responded with hits such as Nadine and No Particular Place to Go. In 1972 Berry recorded his only number one hit, My Ding-a-Ling.
“I learned about Chuck through the Rolling Stones covering his songs. I have been playing his songs since I was a teenager,” said Slim. Berry has earned many honours, including a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and a statue dedicated to him in St. Louis.