Chuck Berry, a music pioneer often called “the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was found dead Saturday at a residence outside St. Louis, police in St. Charles County said. He was 90.
A post on the St. Charles County police Facebook page said officers responded to a medical emergency at a residence around 12:40 p.m. (1:40 p.m. ET) Saturday and found an unresponsive man inside.
“Unfortunately, the 90-year-old man could not be revived and was pronounced deceased at 1:26 p.m.,” the post said. “The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.”
Berry wrote and recorded “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” — songs every garage band and fledgling guitarist had to learn if they wanted to enter the rock ‘n’ roll fellowship.
Berry took all-night hamburger stands, brown-eyed handsome men and V-8 Fords and turned them into the stuff of American poetry. By doing so, he gave rise to followers beyond number, bar-band disciples of the electric guitar, who carried his musical message to the far corners of the Earth.
The Rolling Stones posted on their website: “The Rolling Stones are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry. He was a true pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll and a massive influence on us. Chuck was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter. His songs will live forever. ”
But it was perhaps John Lennon — who died in 1980 — who put it most succinctly. “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.'”
The list of Berry’s classics is as well-known as his distinctive, chiming “Chuck Berry riff”: “Maybellene.” “Around and Around.” “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.” “School Days.” “Memphis.” “Nadine.” “No Particular Place to Go.”
They were deceptively simple tunes, many constructed with simple chord progressions and classic verse-chorus-verse formats, but their hearts could be as big as teenage hopes on a Saturday night.
His music even went into outer space. When the two Voyager spacecrafts were launched in 1977, each was accompanied on its journey to the outer reaches of the solar system by a phonograph record that contained sounds of Earth — including “Johnny B. Goode.”
He earned more honors than anybody could have imagined. Besides the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, he had a statue dedicated to him in St. Louis (he’s portrayed doing his famous hunched-over “duck walk”); received PEN New England’s inaugural award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence; a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; a BMI Icon honor; and a Kennedy Center Honors Award, at which Bill Clinton called him “one of the 20th Century’s most influential musicians.”
“In my universe, Chuck is irreplaceable,” Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2009. “All that brilliance is still there, and he’s still a force of nature. As long as Chuck Berry’s around, everything’s as it should be. This is a man who has been through it all. The world treated him so nasty. But in the end, it was the world that got beat.”