ROCK and roll legend Chuck Berry has died aged 90.
The pioneering star, often called ‘the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, was found dead at a residence in the US state of Missouri.
The singer was unresponsive when officers from St. Charles County police attended an emergency call earlier today (Saturday).
“The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.”
The man who invented rock and roll still influenced music at 90
by Craig Campbell
NOT many songwriters have left a legacy quite like the man born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in 1926.
For one thing, there’s only one rock ’n’ roll song included on the golden LP that is flying through space at the moment, sent up there as part of a Voyager expedition, in the hope that one day, somewhere, little green men might find it and listen to it.
Chuck’s classic Johnny B Goode is the song in question, and if they don’t start tapping their toes and shaking their heads, they’ll be the first folk in the Universe not to.
Even John Lennon said of him, If you tried to give rock ’n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry, while The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin and just about anyone you care to mention has claimed Chuck as one of their original inspirations.
Not that the great man was always pleased about that, as Berry and other artists from his time have occasionally, and quite rightly, pointed out that an awful lot of white artists pinched their best ideas for themselves!
And, even though The Rolling Stones’ early hits often featured Chuck songs and earned him lots of royalties, he wasn’t slow to punch Keith Richard right on the nose!
This was in the mid-60s, and Keith recalled: “We’ve had our ups and downs.
“He once gave me a black eye, backstage at his gig. He’d left his guitar in the dressing-room. I just picked it, and he walks in, saying: ‘Nobody touches that.’ Bam!
“But a few months later, I got this apologetic: ‘Keith, I didn’t know it was you!’
“I just said to him: ‘Look, Chuck, you did the right move. I wouldn’t let nobody touch mine, either!’”
One of the very first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their panel of experts said of Chuck: “While no individual can be said to have invented rock ’n’ roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together.
“It was his particular genius to graft Country & Western guitar licks onto a rhythm & blues chassis in his very first single, Maybellene.”
If the British bands who invaded the USA in the 60s did so after leaning heavily on his original ideas, The Beatles and Stones also helped him with a get-out-of-jail card. Literally!
In and out of prison much of his life, Berry was languishing behind bars for his latest offence when the British Invasion changed everything in the United States.
The fact that all the British bands did their own versions of Berry songs kept him in the public eye when he was in jail and unable to do so himself.
When he got out, he embarked on his latest string of hits, and Chuck often seemed like he could write three-minute classic singles at the drop of a hat.
Roll Over Beethoven, Too Much Monkey Business, School Day, Rock And Roll Music, Sweet Little Sixteen, Carol and Johnny B Goode had all become hits before he went into jail.
Out again, Nadine, No Particular Place To Go and You Never Can Tell were all written in a flash, all becoming hits.
Even better, those Brits now had every band on Earth adding medleys of Chuck Berry belters to their own sets, and millions around the globe who’d never heard of him went out to buy themselves some Chuck Berry LPs and singles.
Others who heard his songs and loved them included The Beach Boys, whose Surfin’ USA sounded just a little too like Chuck’s Sweet Little Sixteen.
They only avoided a costly lawsuit by adding his name to the writing credits on the record.
Chuck’s famous Duckwalk has long been a feature of his concerts, and there are few sights in rock ’n’ roll like seeing Chuck Berry duckwalk across a stage.
However, not many folk know how it originated — irritated to find his fancy rayon suit had got very crumpled at a concert, Chuck did his now-legendary low weaving dance, in the hope his legs would shake out any creases as he moved!
To say his tale is a rags-to-riches story would be to lay it on thick. Chuck was actually from a nice, middle-class background, with a father who was deacon at the local Baptist church and a mum who was principal at the high school.
With their jobs, the young Charles had the cash to buy records and guitars, and by 13, he was performing for the kids at school.
Alas, if he learned his chords fast, he also grew up fast in other ways, and by 17, he was in the clink, for stealing a car at gunpoint.
He’d later say it wasn’t a proper gun and that his own car had broken down, but he was sent to Algoa’s Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men, Missouri.
Inside, he formed a singing quartet and also learned to box. Thankfully, he preferred singing to punching, and began to realise he could write some nice catchy words to go with his tunes.
Berry loved to write about the latest crazes, flashy American cars, rebelling against the old fogies at school and how he couldn’t wait to be all grown up and answer to nobody.
But his unique guitar style would prove just as important and influential, and from Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page, they all reckon that you aren’t a true guitar man until you have mastered those famous Chuck Berry licks.
Chuck, despite all the success, never seemed like a guy who could just settle down and be content with a trouble-free existence.
He’d been in jail for tax evasion, and for hiring an Apache girl as a waitress in his club, as she was just 14, and the long arm of the law often disrupted his career.
On the other hand, he changed the way superstars tour, that’s for sure!
Chuck, while touring the world, liked to show up in town by himself, hire a local band and head straight to the concert, barely knowing their names and assuming they will know his songs.
He also insisted on being paid in cash, after his tax trials and tribulations — oh, and every concert hall must be near an Indian restaurant, his favourite food being curries!
What a phenomenal impact this man has had on music, with his lyrics, his duckwalk antics on stage and his astounding guitar style.