Berry died at his home outside St. Louis after officers responding to a report of a medical emergency failed to revive him. Hail! Rock “n” Roll, a documentary of a concert celebrating Berry’s 60th birthday.
Berry is credited with originating many quirks exclusively associated with the rock “n” roll genre, including a rollicking, danceable beat, his famous “duck walk” and a heavy, rhythmic guitar style that he may well have been described in the song Johnny B. Goode: “just like he’s ringin’ a bell”.
In 2012, Berry reported to Rolling Stone that “My singing days have passed”. The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry.
Berry hit the Top 10 in 1955 with “Maybellene” and influenced generations of musicians. The song was a hit with the students-and an annoyance to the faculty-igniting Berry’s fledgling desire for performance.
But Berry had a darker side.
“Maybellene is weeping. Johnny is still being Goode”. While he couldn’t recall what they talked about, he remembered the way Berry was in front of an audience. From Swing to Chuck Berry, to Jimi Hendrix, to Ed Van Halen – all players who sensationally broke all the rules of the game as they entered it – and made unholy splashes in the River! The following is an interview with Berry, where he talks about performing in his later years. The move inspired a skit on the television show “Saturday Night Live” in which the first contact from outer space was this message: “Send more Chuck Berry”.
Throughout his life, Berry continued to make music, despite a rash of personal problems.
In a statement, he revealed his new record, titled Chuck, would contain a number of original songs written, recorded and produced by him, and would be released by Dualtone Records in 2017, although a specific date was never announced.
However, Berry’s only No. 1 hit was “My Ding-a-Ling”, a throwaway novelty song that seemed to be a juvenile sex reference. Recorded in May of 1955, the original lyrics were reworked by Berry to describe a auto race and an unfaithful woman, and the track was retitled “Maybellene”. First, though, he spent three years in jail after he and two friends stole a vehicle. They lived in a relatively prosperous black section of St. Louis known as the Ville.
Yet despite this flurry of successes, in 1959 Berry found himself in trouble yet again.
In his 2011 autobiography, Life, Richards wrote: “The attractive thing about Chuck Berry’s playing was it had such an effortless swing”.
In recent years, Berry was experiencing a bit of a cultural revival. The impact of Berry’s music had an especially big impact on four young men in Liverpool, England, who would go on to form The Beatles, arguably the most influential group in music history.
Few could argue that while much of the repertoire created during rock’s infancy can sound dated or corny, Berry’s canon holds up magnificently.
“When he got out of jail and started gigging again in the ’70s” – Berry was imprisoned three times, once as a teen for robbery, once for transporting a minor across state lines and once on tax charges – “he had gotten cheated by so many managers that he demanded to get paid before he went on”, Maver said in that same story. And Chuck Berry was its chief designer, its master engineer and – argue all you want but the available evidence overwhelms – one of its inventors, if not THE inventor.