Chuck Berry dies at 90

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - ENTERTAINMENT - HILLEL ITALIE and JIM SUHR

NEW YORK - Chuck Berry, rock ’n’ roll’s found­ing gui­tar hero and sto­ry­teller who de­fined the mu­sic’s joy and re­bel­lion in such clas­sics as Johnny B. Goode, Sweet Lit­tle

Six­teen and Roll Over Beethoven, died Satur­day at his home west of St. Louis. He was 90.

Emer­gency re­spon­ders sum­moned to Berry’s res­i­dence by his care­taker about 12:40 p.m. found him un­re­spon­sive, po­lice in Mis­souri’s St. Charles County said in a state­ment. At­tempts to re­vive Berry failed, and he was pro­nounced dead shortly be­fore 1:30 p.m., po­lice said.

Berry’s core reper­toire was some three dozen songs, his in­flu­ence in­cal­cu­la­ble, from the Bea­tles and the Rolling Stones to vir­tu­ally any group from garage band to arena act that called it­self rock ’n roll.

“Just let me hear some of that rock ’n’ roll mu­sic any old way you use it I am play­ing I’m talk­ing about you. God bless Chuck Berry Chuck,” Bea­tles drum­mer Ringo Starr tweeted, quot­ing some lyrics from a Berry hit.

While Elvis Pres­ley gave rock its li­bidi­nous, hip-shak­ing im­age, Berry was the au­teur, set­ting the tem­plate for a new sound and way of life.

“Chuck Berry was a rock and roll orig­i­nal. A gifted gui­tar player, an amaz­ing live per­former, and a skilled song­writer whose mu­sic and lyrics cap­tured the essence of 1950s teenage life,” The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said in a state­ment.

Well be­fore the rise of Bob Dy­lan, Berry wed­ded so­cial com­men­tary to the beat and rush of pop­u­lar mu­sic.

“He was singing good lyrics, and in­tel­li­gent lyrics, in the ’50s when peo­ple were singing, ”Oh, baby, I love you so,’“John Len­non once ob­served.

Berry, in his late 20s be­fore his first ma­jor hit, crafted lyrics that spoke to the teenagers of the day and re­mained fresh decades later.

Sweet Lit­tle Six­teen cap­tured rock ’n’ roll fan­dom, an early and in­no­cent ode to the young girls later known as “groupies.” School Day told of the sing-song tri­als of the class­room (“Amer­i­can his­tory and prac­ti­cal math; you’re study­ing hard, hop­ing to pass ... ”) and the lib­er­a­tion of rock ’n’ roll once the day’s fi­nal bell rang. Roll Over Beethoven was an an­them to rock’s his­tory-mak­ing power, while Rock and Roll

Mu­sic was a guide­book for all bands that fol­lowed (“It’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it”). Back

in the U.S.A. was a black man’s straight-faced trib­ute to his coun­try at a time there was no guar­an­tee Berry would be served at the drive-ins and cor­ner cafes he was cel­e­brat­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing I wrote about wasn’t about me, but about the peo­ple lis­ten­ing,” he once said.


Leg­endary U.S. mu­si­cian Chuck Berry per­forms on stage at the Avo Ses­sion in Basel, Switzer­land in 2007. Berry died Satur­day, at his home west of St. Louis. He was 90.

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