Chuck Berry, one of the primary architects of rock ‘n’ roll, died Saturday at age 90. The guitarist and singer died at his home in St. Charles County, Mo., reportedly of natural causes.
Berry penned songs that formed the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll and became many of its most widely covered standards — “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Johnny B. Goode” and many others.
A tribute to Berry by Mass Appeal notes that John Lennon once said: “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’”
The report quotes author and critic Nelson George, who wrote: “After he had a hit with ‘Maybellene’ Berry realized white kids were buying his records, so he began writing lyrics about teenage concerns about school, dating, fast cars and rebellion. Out of these elements Berry created both the sonic and lyrical backbone of rock & roll.”
George notes that other rock pioneers such as Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ike Turner all played important parts in the early evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. “But I think Berry is the essential artist in that the aesthetics of that musical movement were refined by this Midwestern showman,” George adds. “Not the nicest guy ever (I, like many, had a brief brusque encounter with him back in the day) but he is a towering figure in world musical history.”
Here’s an old clip from when Berry and one of his followers, John Lennon, found themselves together on stage …