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Rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry dead at 90

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry dead at 90


Reuters

Chuck Berry, who duck-walked his way into the pantheon of rock 'n' roll pioneers as one of its most influential guitarists and lyricists, creating raucous anthems that defined the genre's sound and heartbeat, died on March 18 at his Missouri home. He was 90.
Police in St Charles County, outside St Louis, said they were called to Berry's home by a caretaker and found him unresponsive. Efforts to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead at 1:26 pm local time.
Considered one of the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll, Charles Edward Anderson Berry was present at its infancy in the 1950s and emerged as its first star guitarist and songwriter - a nearly 30-year-old black performer whose style electrified young white audiences and was emulated by white performers who came to dominate American popular music.
Although Elvis Presley was called the king of rock 'n' roll, that crown would have fit just as well on Berry's own carefully sculpted pompadour.
Berry hits include Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little Sixteen, Maybellene and Memphis melded elements of blues, rockabilly and jazz into some of the most timeless pop songs of the 20th century.
He was a monumental influence on just about any kid who picked up a guitar with rock star aspirations - Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen among them.
Bob Dylan called Berry"the Shakespeare of rock 'n' roll," and he was one of the first popular acts to write as well as perform his own songs. They focused on youth, romance, cars and good times, with lyrics that were complex, humorous and sometimes a little raunchy.
Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, as well as the Beach Boys and scores of other acts - even Elvis - covered Berry's songs.
"If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name," Lennon once said,"you might call it 'Chuck Berry'."
GROWING OLD
His death came five months after Berry announced plans to release his first album of new music in 38 years some time in 2017 - a collection of mostly original material recorded and produced by Berry, titled 'Chuck' and dedicated to his wife of 68 years, Themetta 'Toddy' Berry.
"My darlin' I'm growing old! I've worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes," Berry wrote in a statement for the occasion, coinciding with his 90th birthday.
Berry listed T-Bone Walker, Carl Hogan of Louis Jordan's band and Charlie Christian from Benny Goodman's band among his guitar influences, but his lyrical style was all his own.
Berry came along at a time when much of the United States remained racially segregated, but it was hard for young audiences of any colour to resist a performer who delivered such a powerful beat with so much energy and showmanship.
Berry said he performed his signature bent-knee, head-bobbing"duck walk" across more than 4,000 concert stages. He said he invented the move as a child in order to make his mother laugh as he chased a ball under a table.
EARLY LIFE
Berry's reputation for being greedy and grouchy was evident in the 1987 documentary Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, which focused on a 60th-birthday concert that Keith Richards organised for him. The filmmakers said Berry refused to show up for production each day unless given a bag of cash.
Berry was born October 18, 1926, the third of six children whose father was a contractor and church deacon and whose mother was a schoolteacher. They lived in a relatively prosperous black section of St. Louis known as the Ville.
In the first of his brushes with the law, Berry was sent to a reformatory as a teenager for armed robbery. After his release at age 21, he worked in an auto plant and as a photographer and trained to be a hairdresser.
While the hits did not keep coming for Berry, the tributes never stopped. He received a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1984 and his 1986 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made him part of the inaugural class.
Illustrating his influence, a recording of Johnny B Goode was included in a collection of music sent into space aboard the unmanned 1977 Voyager I probe to provide aliens a taste of Earth culture.

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