Founding father of Rock ‘n’ Roll Chuck Berry dies at 90

Α Decrease font Enlarge font
Founding father of Rock ‘n’ Roll Chuck Berry dies at 90The cause of his death was not revealed

Chuck Berry, the singer, songwriter and guitar great who practically defined rock music with his impeccably twangy hits “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Memphis,” “My Ding-a-Ling” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” has died. He was 90.

The singer/songwriter, whose classic “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the golden record of Earth Sounds and Music launched with Voyager in 1977, died Saturday afternoon, St. Charles County Police Department confirmed. The cause of death was not revealed.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

During his 60-plus years in show business, Berry in 1986 became one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He entered The Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame in ’85 and that year also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

He performed in 1979 for President Jimmy Carter at the White House, landed at No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and trademarked his stage showmanship with his famous “duck walk.”

John Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” He paved the way for such music legends as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Band, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Sex Pistols and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.

Muddy Waters, Berry’s idol and musical influence, gave him some constructive backstage advice: contact Leonard Chess. Chicago-based Chess Records, primarily a blues label run by Polish brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, had a series of transplanted blues artists on its roster, including Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker.

First single

The Chess brothers signed Berry in 1955 and produced and released his first single, “Maybellene,” an adaption of the Bob Wills song “Ida Red.” It sold more than a million copies, reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and hit No. 5 on the Pop charts, allowing Berry to build crossover appeal beyond the R&B audience.

“Maybellene” blended hillbilly licks and high-spirited blues riffs, ultimately creating the signature sound that pioneered the rock revolution. The lyrics for the song had narrative swagger, reflecting the spirit of teenage angst depicting fast cars, drag races and the story of an unfaithful girl as its main themes.

He explained his appeal to adolescents across different cultural backgrounds: “Everything I wrote about wasn’t about me but [was about] the people listening.” He had a way of identifying what people wanted to express, but weren’t able to, during this segregated time.

Berry, the fourth of six children, was born on Oct. 18, 1926, as Charles Edward Anderson. He was raised in St. Louis in a middle-class black neighborhood. His father Henry was a contractor and his mother Martha a school principal.

The club circuit 

Berry married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and had four children with her. He supported his family by becoming a factory worker, janitor and cosmetologist before pounding the pavement in the club circuit to earn extra cash. He partnered with pianist Johnnie Johnson, joining his group Sir John’s Trio, which later became known as the Chuck Berry Combo.

His debut album, After School Session, produced by the Chess brothers, featured a variety of musicians including Johnson, Ebby Hardy, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann and Fred Below. The effort was tailored toward a youthful market featuring comedic cut-up lyrics, rhythmically intricate guitar parts and stand-alone solos in effortless anthems like “School Days,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Wee Wee Hours,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Thirty Days.”

Keith Richards of the Stones, a big fan, said, “Chuck Berry always was the epitome of rhythm and blues playing, rock ’n’ roll playing. It was beautiful and effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm supreme. He plays that lovely double-string stuff, which I got down a long time ago but I’m still getting the hang of. Later I realized why he played that way — because of the sheer physical size of the guy. I mean, he makes one of those big Gibsons look like a ukulele!”

His 1972 album The London Chuck Berry Sessions, featuring a who’s who of British rock royalty went gold within a month, selling more than 500,000 copies. It featured both studio and live recordings with such songs as “Let’s Boogie,” “I Love You,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “My Ding a Ling,” a late-period hit written and first recorded by Dave Bartholomew. The novelty song about his private part became his only No. 1 pop hit on both the Billboard and U.K. pop charts.

Legal situations

Berry fought a number of legal situations that arised in his life. He was arrested in high school for stealing a car and robbing convenience stores. He received his GED in prison and was released at age 21. He was imprisoned under the Mann Act in the early 1960s for having sexual intercourse with a minor and in 1979 for tax evasion. He continued to make music behind bars, writing “Thirty Days,” “Nadine” and “No Particular Place to Go.”

Expressing his disagreement with the charges, “Thirty Days” included the lyrics, “If I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge/I’m gonna take it to the FBI and voice my grudge/If they don’t give me no consolation/I’m gonna take it to the United Nations/I’m gonna see that you be back home in 30 days.”

Bands like the Stones, Beach Boys (basing “Surfing U.S.A.” on his “Sweet Little Sixteen”) and Beatles covered his songs, allowing him to remain relevant to the music world, and he signed with Mercury Records in the mid-1960s. He released five albums on the label and toured on the success of his earlier hits. He quickly built a bad reputation during his live shows by hiring spur-of-the-moment backup bands, somehow thinking they’d know each lick of his music.

Bruce Springsteen and Steve Miller occasionally performed live with Berry. Springsteen and the E Street Band backed Berry during his performance of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Rock and Roll Music” at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Berry’s 60th birthday 

Director Taylor Hackford captured Berry’s 60th birthday in the 1986 documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, where he famously clashed with his protégé Richards. Those who appeared in the film included Diddley, Lennon, Lewis and Little Richard, all of whom revealed personal stories and relationships with him. Berry performed concerts that same year with a number of artists including Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, Julian Lennon, Robert Cray and Johnson, his original mentor.

Rolling Stone ranked his compilation album The Great Twenty-Eight as No. 21 on its list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” with six of his songs included on their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” including “Johnny B. Goode” (No. 7),  “Maybelline” (No. 18), “Roll Over Beethoven” (No. 97), “Rock and Roll Music” (No. 128), “Sweet Little Sixteen” (No. 272) and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (No. 374).

In 2012, Berry reported to Rolling Stone that “My singing days have passed. My voice is gone. My throat is worn. And my lungs are going fast. I think that explains it.” He continued to perform, though his shows featured little more than his trusty Gibson and those hastily assembled back-up bands.

In his 2011 autobiography, Life, Richards wrote: “The beautiful thing about Chuck Berry’s playing was it had such an effortless swing. None of this sweating and grinding away and grimacing… just pure, effortless swing, like a lion.”

Source: billboard.com

Read more here.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons Copyright: Michael Borkson License: CC-BY-SA

 

Tornos
  1. 22/06 16:49

    Blueground’s portfolio includes 400 property assets in Athens

  2. 22/06 16:34

    English novelist Anthony Horowitz discovers “most magical” Greek island of Spetses

  3. 22/06 14:26

    BITE 2018: Chinese express strong interest in Greece as a tourist destination

  4. 22/06 14:22

    Emirates Airbus A380 makes first landing in Athens on Friday (video)

  5. 22/06 14:17

    Greek island vacation for American media tycoon Barry Diller

  6. 22/06 14:17

    Greek National Theatre offers cheaper tickets for Ancient Theater of Epidaurus

  7. 22/06 14:02

    Travelbook.de presents its "Top 10" Greek beaches list for 2018

  8. 22/06 13:49

    Kate Hudson’ son Ryder, 14, looks like grandpa Kurt Russell on Greek vacation

  9. 22/06 13:46

    Chalkidiki’s olives lauded in Russian travel magazine

  10. 22/06 12:37

    Report: Hotel rooms on popular Greek islands booked during 2018 season

  11. 22/06 12:23

    “Disruption” at 7th SNF International Conference on philanthropy in Athens (videos)

  12. 22/06 10:53

    Archaeologists discover villa and mosaic of Ancient Greek fisherman Phainos in Turkey

  13. 21/06 19:34

    Balance of travel services in Greece: Arrivals grow but spending drops in Q1

  14. 21/06 19:20

    Athens Stock Exchange: 7th Hellenic Investment Forum in New York winds up

  15. 21/06 18:42

    Summer Nostos Festival draws crowds to the SNFCC in Athens

  16. 21/06 18:32

    Saving 1 million turtles worldwide by new global TUI Turtle Aid programme

  17. 21/06 16:24

    TUI: Greece second most popular destination in 2018 - the tourists who prefer it

  18. 21/06 14:35

    Marriott International Hotels gear up as water savvy Cape Town bounces back

  19. 21/06 14:31

    Ferrari celebrates 70th anniversary in Greek city of Ioannina in Epirus (video)

  20. 21/06 13:20

    3rd Ministerial Conference for Security and Stability on Greek island of Rhodes

  21. 21/06 12:22

    Air Traffic Controllers strikes destroy aviation and economies across Europe

  22. 21/06 10:05

    Travel report: Astypalaia, a Greek island that steals your heart

  23. 19/06 22:27

    Aegean Cuisine network ‘the ambassador of Cycladic islands gastronomy’

  24. 19/06 22:22

    Refugee Food Festival is coming to restaurants in Athens and Mytilene island

  25. 19/06 22:17

    Ambassador Pyatt: Strong support by the US for Greece's economic recovery

  26. 19/06 22:05

    Popular Greek singers performing across the country for summer 2018

  27. 19/06 21:51

    Art Athina 2018 opens at the Athens Conservatory on June 21

  28. 19/06 21:45

    Five applications for freight rail transport and logistics to Greece

  29. 19/06 21:32

    China showing great interest in Greek audiovisual sector and film tourism

  30. 19/06 21:22

    The Athens Acropolis Museum celebrates nine years of existence

  31. 19/06 18:51

    Lesvos island marks World Refugee Day with concerts by refugee children

  32. 19/06 18:44

    Greek island of Sifnos: A place filled with tasty memories

  33. 19/06 18:39

    President Kovind: Greece and India can boost bilateral trade to more than 1 billion

  34. 19/06 18:32

    Legendary Onassis yacht Christina O docks at Greece’s Piraeus port (video)

  35. 19/06 18:20

    Minister: Culture adds value to Greece's tourist product (video)

  36. 19/06 17:48

    Report: Symbolism of Greek statues in Beyoncé and Jay-Z Apesh*t clip (video)

  37. 19/06 17:37

    Prospect for strengthening tourist flows from India to Greece very high

  38. 19/06 17:04

    Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens redevelopment in full swing

  39. 19/06 16:59

    Singapore Airlines’ new Boeing 787-10 to serve Bali after July 2, 2018

  40. 19/06 14:49

    The top-5 countries with the highest demand for Greek golden visas

  41. 19/06 12:36

    ACI Europe: Traffic at Athens, Kefalonia and Corfu airports takes off

  42. 19/06 10:26

    Reuters: Dromeus Capital fund looking to invest in Greek commercial property

  43. 19/06 00:27

    Harvard Library acquires archive of iconic Greek poet Nikos Gatsos

  44. 19/06 00:21

    Media: DG Comp delay doubles offer for 20-year concession of Athens Airport

  45. 19/06 00:13

    Cyprus’ residents trips abroad rise by 1.7% during May 2018

  46. 19/06 00:06

    Land developer confident Helleniko project can commence construction in early 2019

  47. 18/06 23:58

    Tatler Travel Guide 2018: Two Greek hotels among the 101 best in the world

  48. 18/06 23:42

    Ryanair flight attendant dancing to Britney Spears' Toxic goes viral

  49. 18/06 22:45

    Report: The mystery of the Sleeping Giant in the Greek island of Naxos

  50. 18/06 21:17

    Indian President Ram Nath Kovind visits Greek capital of Athens

  51. 18/06 21:12

    Space Agrobox: Greek students find way to feed astronauts

  52. 18/06 21:03

    New York Times laud Athens as a rising cultural capital of Europe

  53. 18/06 20:06

    4th Annual Loukoumi Dance Party and Make A Difference Awards in New York

  54. 18/06 20:01

    Tourist arrivals in Cyprus up by 7.6% during May

  55. 18/06 19:55

    Summer Nostos Festival returns in Athens between June 17-24 (video)

  56. 18/06 19:40

    Arab resorts try to copycat Greece’s Cycladic island beauty

  57. 18/06 19:35

    Greek Investment Roadshow in the USA to take place between June 19-22

  58. 18/06 18:27

    Food-For-Good Festival in Kalamaria Thessaloniki a big hit

  59. 18/06 16:23

    Ancient Theatre of Aptera in Crete to reopen after 17 centuries of silence

  60. 18/06 14:19

    TUI report: Scaling positive change through sustainable tourism

  61. 18/06 12:09

    Olympic champion Stefanidi to participate in Athens Street Pole Vault event

  62. 18/06 10:02

    ABTA: 1 in 3 Brits travel abroad without checking advice about their holiday destination

  63. 15/06 21:19

    Religious Tourism: Exploring ancient Christian churches in Turkey

  64. 15/06 21:08

    Poll: 99% of women hate their partner wearing tight Speedos

  65. 15/06 20:37

    Alexandria’s Greek graves in Egypt form moving monument to Diaspora

  66. 15/06 20:30

    Cavo Paradiso club in Mykonos island celebrates 25th anniversary

  67. 15/06 18:26

    Bus work stoppages in Athens on Tuesday and Thursday

  68. 15/06 16:22

    New objective tax rates for property in Greece approved by finance ministry

  69. 15/06 14:17

    First run for trimaran Superspeed linking Thessaloniki with Sporades islands

  70. 15/06 12:06

    Rainy weather front to affect parts of Greece until Tuesday

  71. 15/06 10:00

    New Mykonos Art festival aims to redefine the popular island destination

  72. 15/06 00:04

    ESM approves 1 billion euros disbursement to Greece

  73. 14/06 23:49

    Nine of the most incredible insurance claims in the history of travel experiences

  74. 14/06 23:38

    Hellenic Heritage Foundation of Toronto celebrates 22nd Annual Gala

  75. 14/06 23:32

    Piraeus to receive €2 million in countervailing benefit from Cosco-run port

  76. 14/06 23:27

    Rich Indians turn to Cyprus for coveted European Union passports

  77. 14/06 20:56

    Bank of Greece: Apartment values down by 40% in the country since 2007

  78. 14/06 20:49

    Retracted and redone Med diet study shows same result: Good

  79. 14/06 20:47

    Athens city council and Mastercard to promote Greek capital abroad

  80. 14/06 20:18

    Sky Express starts flights to and from Chania in Crete and Athens

  81. 14/06 18:34

    Greek Tourism Minister highlights country's attractions for Russians

  82. 14/06 18:32

    Media report: Celebrities making their way to Greece for Summer 2018

  83. 14/06 16:03

    Manasis School in Australia dances “Zorba the Greek” at rugby game

  84. 14/06 14:56

    The Tiger Lillies tour Greece between June 19-24

  85. 14/06 10:33

    Airlines’ ‘hidden’ fees report: Better know before you go

  86. 14/06 01:49

    Guardian: Mykonos and Santorini among 10 classic European islands on a budget

  87. 14/06 01:40

    The essential guide to drinking Ouzo

  88. 14/06 01:34

    Andros island museum hosts tribute to expressionist Dimitris Mytaras

  89. 14/06 01:27

    Tourism, food and beverage sectors boost new hirings in May

  90. 14/06 01:18

    The full agreement between Greece and FYROM on name dispute in English

  91. 14/06 00:55

    The six best toilets in the 2018 International Toilet Tourism Awards

  92. 14/06 00:24

    Work stoppages to affect most transport means in Athens on Thursday

  93. 14/06 00:08

    All-night performance at Temple of Epicurean Apollo in Peloponnese

  94. 13/06 23:13

    Supplementary tax hike on Greek islands and Athens city center

  95. 13/06 22:07

    Tickets to travel to four European countries to 315 young Greeks

  96. 13/06 20:48

    Dior launches pop up store in Mykonos with exclusive Myconian collection

  97. 13/06 20:02

    Athens Taxi owners go again on strike over Uber return fears

  98. 13/06 19:42

    Expert presentation: The color and design of the Parthenon frieze

  99. 13/06 16:24

    Report: Tiffany Trump and Lindsay Lohan planning Mykonos trip together

  100. 13/06 12:52

    Russian Foreign Minister: Economic ties with Greece growing strongly