Chuck Berry (Frank Carroll / NBC / Getty)
Chuck Berry, the singer-songwriter and guitarist who was one of the architects of rock 'n' roll, died Saturday, March 18, 2017. He was 90.
Berry was found unresponsive Saturday afternoon in St. Charles County, Missouri.
Born Oct. 18, 1926, Berry wrote and performed some of the great classics of the early rock 'n' roll era – "Johnny B. Goode," "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music," "Sweet Little Sixteen," and many more. In 1953, he began performing with Johnnie Johnson, who would become Berry's frequent collaborator. Berry got a kick out of experimenting with combining the blues he regularly played with the country music he heard white audiences requesting. The combination caught on, and more and more people began attending his concerts. He caught the attention of famed bluesman Muddy Waters, who sent him to audition for Chess Records. Founder Leonard Chess liked what he heard, recorded and released "Maybellene," and a legend was born.
Berry churned out hits throughout the 1950s, and after a prison stint in the early 1960s, he was back on the charts with hit singles including "No Particular Place To Go," "Nadine," and "You Never Can Tell." He topped the R&B chart over and over, and while he frequently had songs in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, only one of his singles ever saw the No. 1 spot there – the novelty song "My Ding-a-Ling." He continued to play and tour well into his 80s.
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Berry's influence is seen all over rock 'n' roll, and his music is widely considered some of the greatest rock music ever recorded. He was the very first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His "Johnny B. Goode" ranked No 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time," and it's just one of many of his songs to find a place on such lists. John Lennon notably said of Berry, "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry.'"
Many musicians paid tribute to the pioneer of rock 'n' roll on social media.
Bruce Springsteen: "Chuck Berry was rock's greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock 'n' roll writer who ever lived."
Ringo Starr: "Just let me hear some of that rock 'n' roll music any old way you use it I am playing I'm talking about you. God bless Chuck Berry."
Brian Wilson: “I am so sad to hear about Chuck Berry passing – a big inspiration! He will be missed by everyone who loves Rock ‘n Roll. Love & Mercy.”
The Jacksons: “Chuck Berry merged blues & swing into the phenomenon of early rock ‘n’ roll. In music, he cast one of the longest shadows. Thank You Chuck.”
Berry is survived by his wife, Thelma Suggs, and his children, Ingrid Berry Clay, Chuck Berry Jr., Aloha Isa Lei Berry and Melody Exes Berry.