Chuck Berry, the legend of rock n roll died at the age of 90. His songs such as “Johnny B. Goode”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Rock and Roll Music”, “School Day”, “Maybellene” and his greatest hit “My Ding-a-Ling” are the heart and soul of Rock and Roll.
Brilliant guitarist who invented his signature “two-stringed lick”, Chuck Berry was a prolific songwriter (not constrained by a specific genre but effortlessly combing them) and consummate performer.
Chuck Berry’s life had its ups and downs.
Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18th 1926 in St. Louis, Berry grew up in segregated Missouri. Caught for armed robbery and car theft, he spent three years in a reform school. Consequently, Berry earned a degree in cosmetology and hairdressing, got married and became a father of four children. For a while he supported his family as a beautician.
In his spare time Berry played music and performed whenever and wherever possible. Even when his musical career took off, his legal troubles didn’t stop. He was charged with a sex crime and drug possession and served a brief stint (20 months) in prison. At the height of his successful career Berry performed at the White House for President Jimmy Carter. Only three days later, he was convicted for tax evasion, sentenced to four years probation and 120 days in federal prison!
Chuck Berry’s music carried him through every storm. It inspired love of his fans and respect – as well as envy – of his peers. The Rolling Stones released an album of Berry’s songs, while The Beach Boys misappropriated his “Sweet Little Sixteen” (to be specific, they turned it into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” without giving Berry due credit for which he sued them and succeeded). Even the Beatles re-imagined his “Rock and Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven”…. This was the impact of Chuck Berry’s music on his fellow artists in the 1960s. And he performed with the best of them for decades: well into his 80s!
This brief tribute to Chuck Berry would be incomplete if we didn’t mention that his achievements were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1984 and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Berry received other awards and recognitions, but one of the greatest honors he received is the inclusion of “Johnny B. Goode” on the NASA playlist within the Voyager I and II spacecraft still traveling in space.
But no matter how one would attempt to describe his life or his art, only Chuck Berry’s music can convey the essence of the artist: have a listen!
CHUCK BERRY – LIVE 1972 – “Roll Over, Beethoven”
Tina Turner & Chuck Berry – Rock n roll music