Barry Anderson, blackdoctor.org
Chuck Berry, ground-breaking guitarist, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who did as much as anyone to define what rock ’n’ roll was and is, died on Saturday at his home near Wentzville, MO. He was 90.
The St. Charles County Police Department confirmed his death on its Facebook page. The department said that it responded to a medical emergency at the home, about 45 miles west of St. Louis, and that lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.
Songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” gave listeners of rock n’ roll something different that took off like wildfire.
His guitar lines were a sweet mix of country and a little bit of the blues that seemed to speak to the young generation back when he first started.
In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs like “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” Berry celebrated everything that it meant to be a teen including lusts and tensions all while laughing it off to a sweet melody. Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners.
Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.
He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery. He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family.
By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.
From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Mr. Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into his signature rock ’n’ roll calling card, the Chuck Berry lick. This same style was imitated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines.
In 1955, Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, legendary bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Berry. And the rest, as they say, is history.
On his official website, his team mourns his loss:
We are deeply saddened to announce that Chuck Berry – beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather – passed away at his home. Since Chuck’s passing on Saturday, the Berry family has received many inquiries from friends, fans and media about the status of his forthcoming album CHUCK, which was originally announced on his 90th birthday, October 18, 2016.