US: Chuck Berry, one of the creators of rock 'n' roll whose dance-ready rhythms and energetic stage performances helped define modern youth culture, died Saturday. He was 90.
Police in the St. Louis area, where Berry was born and lived most of his life, said that first responders found the guitar legend unresponsive when they responded to an emergency call at his home.
“The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry,” the department said on Facebook.
Berry became a sensation in the years after World War II as he brought together rhythm and blues, country guitar and a consummate stage showmanship.
His 1958 hit “Johnny B. Goode” was so influential and recognizable that the US space program chose it to represent rock music for potential extraterrestrial listeners on the Voyager spacecraft.
“Roll Over Beethoven” from 1956 was almost a manifesto of rock 'n' roll as the charismatic Berry urged the DJ to switch off the classical records and turn to the new genre of the youth.
Other hits included “Maybellene,” one of the pioneering rock songs that gave a guitar edge to a popular fiddle tune, and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” in which Berry hailed rock 'n' roll's sweep across the United States.
But Berry, one of the first African Americans to find a widespread white audience, saw his career crumble in 1959 when he was arrested for taking a 14-year-old girl across state lines for “immoral purposes” under an obscure 1910 law.
Berry defended himself against the allegations he slept with the young waitress. But he was convicted by an all-white jury and served a year and a half in prison.
Associates would later describe the laid-back and fun-loving Berry as a changed man, and the conviction has long been viewed in the African American community as a warning sign for artists on the rise.
Berry mostly avoided the media limelight as he resurrected his career. In a rare 1987 interview with NBC television, Berry declined to describe himself as the father of rock 'n' roll, listing others including his contemporary Elvis Presley as well as Fats Domino and Little Richard. “We're all I think just a cog in the wheel. We all got the ball rolling,” he said.
Berry late in his life stayed low-profile in St. Louis where he played two decades worth of shows at the Blueberry Club, with his son Charles Berry Jr. in his backup band.
In a surprise, Berry last year celebrated his 90th birthday by announcing that he had recorded his first album in 38 years.
Entitled simply “Chuck,” the album is slated to be released sometime this year.
In a statement as he announced the album, Berry dedicated it to his wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry.
Meanwhile,Chuck Berry's death drew emotional tributes from fellow musicians and other celebrities who praised him as a rock 'n' roll trailblazer.
Here are some reactions from Twitter: - Bruce Springsteen: “Chuck Berry was rock's greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock 'n' roll writer who ever lived.
This is a tremendous loss of a giant for the ages.” - Brian Wilson: “I am so sad to hear about Chuck Berry passing -- a big inspiration! He will be missed by everyone who loves Rock 'n' Roll. Love & Mercy.” - Ringo Starr: “R I P. And peace and love Chuck Berry Mr. rock 'n' roll music.” - Lenny Kravitz: “Hail Hail Chuck Berry!!! None of us would have been here without you. Rock on brother!” - Rod Stewart: “It started with Chuck Berry. He inspired us all.
The 1st album I bought was Chuck's 'Live at the Tivoli' and I was never the same.” - The Rolling Stones: “The Rolling Stones are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry. He was a true pioneer of rock 'n' roll & a massive influence.
“Chuck Berry was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter.
“Chuck Berry's songs will live forever.” - Mick Jagger: “I am so sad to hear of Chuck Berry's passing. I want to thank him for all the inspirational music he gave to us.
“He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being musicians and performers.
“His lyrics shone above others & threw a strange light on the American dream. Chuck you were amazing & your music is engraved inside us forever.” - Ronnie Wood: “So sad -- with the passing of Chuck Berry comes the end of an era. He was one of the best and my inspiration, a true character indeed.” - Keith Richards: “One of my big lights has gone out.” - Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“When I was 10 years old and I dreamed every night of moving to America, Chuck Berry played the soundtrack. He rocked the world. RIP.” - Stephen King: “Chuck Berry died. This breaks my heart, but 90 years old ain't bad for rock and roll. Johnny B. Goode forever. ” - AFP