Anwar Hussein Collection

Source: Anwar Hussein / Getty

According to the St. Charles County Police Department, legendary musician Chuck Berry has died.

He was 90 years old.

Police said Saturday they responded to a medical emergency on Buckner Road around 12:40 p.m. Inside the home, first responders spoke with a caretaker who was caring for an unresponsive man and administered lifesaving techniques.

The 90-year-old man, later identified as Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry, could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m.

Berry is widely viewed as among the most influential artists in rock ‘n’ roll with hits like Johnny B. Goode, Never Can Tell, and Roll Over Beethoven. Berry influenced artists like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Who and Pink Floyd.

The Beatles had hits with Berry compositions such as Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music and Sweet Little Sixteen, and McCartney called Berry “one of greatest poets America has ever produced” in an introduction to the 2014 release of Berry’s complete studio recordings.

Neil Young played with Berry and Richards at Berry’s 1986 induction into the first class of the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame, in which Richards said in his induction speech for his hero, “I lifted every lick he ever played.”

Troubled past

Berry was born to middle class parents in segregated St. Louis. He got in trouble with the law when he ran away from home with two high school dropouts at age 17. When their tires blew out and they had no money for food, Berry wrote, one of them robbed a bakery shop of $62. Berry found a fire-damaged gun in a used car lot and robbed a barbershop for $32. Then, they held up a clothing store for $52.

With that haul, they were able to buy a tire and a rim and some food to continue their journey west. A rod blew on Berry’s 1937 Oldsmobile at 3:30 a.m. After a couple hours of standing on the roadside, waiting for someone to give them a push, a man in a Chevy coupe stopped and offered to help. Berry flashed his defective gun and told him to move over “‘cuz he was driving.” The guy bolted out of the passenger door, and Berry and a buddy lined up his car to start pushing Berry’s Oldsmobile back to St. Louis with the other friend at the wheel.

A state trooper was waiting for them 10 minutes down the road, alerted by the Chevy owner who had scooted out of the passenger seat and ran to a phone booth. Berry was arrested and advised by an inexpensive lawyer to plead guilty and seek mercy from the court. The trial lasted 21 minutes. Berry said he was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men near Jefferson City, Mo.

When he was paroled on his 21st birthday, Berry returned to St. Louis and eventually began singing and playing guitar at parties, then nightclubs. He discovered that whenever he’d sing country songs he’d get a big reaction, even from African-American audiences. Eventually, he and his band — including pianist Johnny Johnson — gained enough of a reputation to get asked to record for Chess Records in Chicago. Their 1955 recording of Maybelline became the first song to fuse country and the blues into what became known as rock ’n’ roll.

Fats Domino, Little Richard and Bo Diddley all wrote and recorded songs that could be considered rock ’n’ roll before Berry. But no one wrote and recorded hit songs as prolifically as Berry. With Elvis bringing a mix of R&B and country to a white audience, they created a pop cultural revolution 60 years ago this year.



Article Courtesy of KSDK-TV St. Louis and WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland

Picture Courtesy of Anwar Hussein and Getty Images

First Video Courtesy of YouTube

Second Video YouTube and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

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