Chuck Berry, the beloved "Father of rock n' roll" died on Saturday (March 18th) at the age of 90. Vintage Vinyl News reported St. Charles, Missouri police said "they responded to a call on Buckner Road in St. Louis around 12:40 PM where they found an unresponsive man (who was Berry). They attempted to revive him but he was declared dead at 1:26 PM." No cause of death has been announced. He is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years, Themetta, and their four children, Darlin Ingrid Berry-Clay, Aloha Berry, Charles Berry Jr., and Melody Exes Berry-Eskridge.
Over the weekend, countless tributes hit the Internet from rock's upper echelon showing their love and heaping praise on Berry, who along with the "Mt. Rushmore" of rock --
Jerry Lee Lewis, and the
Everly Brothers -- created the form that all popular music followed from the mid-1950's through today.
Bob Dylan famously called Chuck Berry the Shakespeare of rock n' roll." Rockers across the globe were dedicating songs to Berry's life and work -- including
Bon Jovi and
Gene Simmons, at their respective shows.
Berry, who pioneered the rock genre with his unique storytelling and clever use of poetics, will undoubtedly be remembered for his signature two-note, guitar-bending lick, variations of which opened up his classic '50s hits "Johnny B. Goode," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Little Queenie," "Carol," and many more. Berry's music bridged the gap between rockabilly and blues on songs like "Maybellene," and broke the color barrier on classics such as "You Never Can Tell" and "School Days," which had more to do with the problems of white American teens than those of segregated blacks living in the South.
In later years, he was renowned for putting very little care into his live act over the years, often driving from gig to gig in his Cadillac, with his signature Gibson 335 guitar -- and a handgun to ensure he received his brown paper bag cash payment. Berry infuriated both audiences and the pickup bands that were employed to back him at various concerts for the complete lack of rehearsal, a pre-arranged setlist -- or even the key that each song would be played it.
Chuck Berry was born on October 18th, 26th, 1926 to a middle class family in St. Louis. Despite his upbringing, he was jailed at the age of 14 for armed robbery and was sentenced to a juvenile reformatory from 1944 to 1947. In 1955, he signed with the soon-to-be legendary Chess Records in Chicago.
Last October 18th -- on his 90th birthday -- Chuck Berry blew more than few minds by announcing his first album in 37 years. Berry's upcoming release, titled,
Chuck, will mark his first new studio set since 1979's
Rock It. Berry, who wrote and produced the new collection due out later this year, tipped his signature captain's hat to his wife Themetta, by declaring in the press release:
"This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy. My darlin' I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!"
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that on the album, Berry was backed by his regular local live backing band, featuring son Charles Berry Jr. on guitar, daughter Ingrid Berry on vocals and harmonica, along with Keith Robinson on drums, Robert Lohr on piano, and Jimmy Marsala on bass. Marsala recalled that the new album has literally been in the planning stages since the release of Rock It -- way back in 1979: "He was constantly working on stuff all the time, on airplanes, writing lyrics down, always coming up with new ideas -- Let's try this, lets try that.' He still has a lot to say."
When we last caught up to Chuck Berry we asked him what fans can expect from his next studio album: "There will be two of. . . at least two, maybe three of the hits as known, as well-known as 'Johnny B. Goode' and 'Maybellene,' from which I'm sure that'll be what it is. The rest will be new songs that I have not done before." is always first on the list. A black man with an electric guitar loudly proclaiming to white America that the music that will dominate youth culture in the coming decades will be African-American. Who was making such revolutionary pop music in 1956? RIP Chuck."
Questlove: "Thou Shall Have No Other Rock Gods Before Him"
The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team: "You’ll always be the Father of Rock & Roll to us, Chuck. Our thoughts are with the Berry family."
Stephen King: "Chuck Berry died. This breaks my heart, but 90 years old ain’t bad for rock and roll. Johnny B. Goode forever."
Scott Kelly: "Your music rocketed on Earth. Then it went interstellar aboard @NASAVoyager#JohnnyBGoode #RIP, Chuck Berry."