Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry, the man whose trademark four-bar guitar style and stage presence paved the way for scores of performers who made music history of their own, was found dead in a home in St. Charles County, Missouri Saturday.
He was 90.
Berry, known for monster hits and rock icons including Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B. Goode, received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1984 and was among the first inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
His machine-gun vocal delivery and lyrics attracted a rebellious and youthful audience in the 1950s, a pioneer who took rhythm and blues from its black roots to become the soundtrack for most of his teenage, largely white fans.
Berry’s music and stylings were shamelessly adopted by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys, to name a few. Johnny B. Goode rivaled “Stairway to Heaven” as one of the all-time most covered guitar works in music history.
Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born into a middle-class family in St Louis, Missouri, on 18 October 1926.
He began playing concerts in high school but was derailed from an initially promising career in music after he was convicted of armed robbery – spending three years in a reformatory for young offenders.
His own influences included blues powerhouses Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker, and he drew from white country and western music to help drive the popularity of his sound.
“My music is simple stuff,” he once said. “Anyone can sit down, look at a set of symbols and produce sounds the music represents.”
He began making records in 1955, releasing Maybellene with the Chess label in Chicago and watching the song roll on to become one of rock and roll’s first great hits.
A string of hits followed, all aimed at his car and romance-crazy audience, with songs like Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen, Carol and the classic Johnny B. Goode gaining control of the airwaves.
“I play the songs they want to hear,” he said of his audience. “That makes them feel they’re getting what they came for.”