The grandfather of rock ‘n’ roll has died at the age of 90
Chuck Berry was a bona fide legend; without him, we would not have the world-changing modern rock music we enjoy today.
Berry was the initial influence behind legendary influential bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He paved the way for modern rock ‘n’ roll as being one of the first artists to appeal to teenage audiences.
He brought blues rock together with jazz and wrote lyrics which appealed to a young and modern generation. Songs about high school, difficult parents and partying. His pioneering and unforgettable hits included “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Maybelline”, and “Johnny B. Goode”.
Unique Stage Presence
He brought charismatic stage presence and unique guitar techniques that birthed generations of future rock stars. All who drew inspiration from emulating his unique performances, and evolved from this into the tremendously diverse rock genres we see today.
Rock god guitarists like Keith Richards felt feeble and inadequate in his presence. Elvis Presley rode on the back of recording Berry cover versions when kick starting his career. To Presley, like others, Berry was his true king of rock ‘n’ roll.
The Original Rock Influence
Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would go on to record cover versions of his songs. The Beach Boys went so far as to replicate Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” for their hit song “Surfin’ USA”. They credited him as a co-writer to avoid a career destroying lawsuit.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in 1986, and Berry was an obvious choice as one of the first inductees. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s official list of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” contains three of Berry’s numbers.
The Beginnings of a Rock and Roll Pioneer
Berry was born in St Louis Missouri in 1926. His parents were middle-class African Americans who encouraged his interest in music and performing. However, this didn’t prevent him experiencing a rebellious youth.
In 1944, while still in High School, he found himself placed in a reformatory after receiving a conviction for armed robbery. However, even whilst incarcerated, he still pursued music by forming a singing quartet.
He is also one of the few celebrity greats to maintain a marriage and avoid a divorce. He married his wife Themetta “Toddy” Suggs in 1948, and she has survived him, being a devoted wife for almost 70 years. Together they had four children, two of which who have performed with him, and recorded with him.
Berry would court legal controversy his entire life, and as well as tax evasion allegations, he was accused of filming women in the bathroom stalls of his Missouri restaurant. He also was almost sued by his former pianist, Johnnie Johnson, who accused him of not attributing him as co-writer. The court threw it out as too much time had passed.
So who influenced the greatest rock influence in history? Berry began his career under the influence of spectacular riffs from the likes of T-Bone Walker. Later he would take guitar lessons with jazz great Ira Harris. It appears to be this combination that led to Berry breaking through with his pioneering and unique rock ‘n’ roll style.
Tributes Flood In For Berry
Many rock and roll greats have since paid tribute to Berry’s legacy, and life-changing influence in their lives. Keith Richard declared that one of his biggest lights had gone out. Bruce Springsteen stated that Berry had been one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest practitioners.
Even former US President Bill Clinton made a statement saying that he and Hillary had been fans of his for their entire lives. Former US President Barak Obama declared that Berry would be missed.
End of an Era
Countless other stars have shared their sympathies for his passing and praised his undeniable influence on their lives and on modern culture.
It is truly the end of an era, with Berry’s passing. Any true lover of rock ‘and’ roll owes him an enormous debt of gratitude for the legacy he has left behind with us.
YOUTUBE VIDEO ( CNN ) :