Rock ’n’ roll legend Chuck Berry dies
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 in an unincorporated area west of St. Louis. He was 90.
Emergency responders summoned to Berry’s residence by his caretaker 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.
A police spokeswoman, Val Joyner, told The Associated Press she had no additional details about the death of Berry, calling him “really a legend.”
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.
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. 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.”
“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”).
“Everything I wrote about wasn’t about me, but about the people listening,” he once said.
Country, pop and rock artists have recorded Berry songs, including the Beatles, Emmylou Harris, Buck Owens and AC/DC. The Rolling Stones’ first single was a cover of Berry’s “Come On.”
Berry riffs pop up in countless songs, from the Stones’ ravenous “Brown Sugar” to the Eagles’ mellow country-rock ballad “Peaceful Easy Feeling.”