Chuck Berry, Rock Music Legend, Dies at 90

The great Chuck Berry, “who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years,” died on Saturday, the New York Times and others reported Saturday. He was 90.

The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri first confirmed the iconic musician's death on its Facebook page.

NYT Snip:

The department said it responded to a medical emergency at a home and he was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they did themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.

In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons.

A full obituary will be published at the Times shortly.

Notable Replies

  1. Chuck Berry was the foundations of... everything.

    Speaking as an old fart punk, he will be greatly missed and is greatly appreciated.

  2. He had a great run. I suppose it was his time. He rocked harder than most, ninety years seems fair, all things considered.

    I'm saddened by the loss, nonetheless. So much of what he did, both in his own recordings, and to those he influenced, means so much to me. I really don't think my identity would be the same without him.

    [cues The Great 28, turns it all the way up, pours a glass]

    Sir, the USA has lost a person who defined us all. You did it the way it ought to be done. I raise my glass to your memory.

  3. I met Chuck a few different times. His reputation for being ornery and thorny was well deserved, as was his reputation for merely phoning many of those gigs in.

    That being said, I discovered that showing the guy even the merest bit of real respect (I would call him Mr. Berry) allowed me to share a couple of lengthy, and really remarkable and fun conversations about everything from his own love of the roots music that inspired him, to the actual inspiration of the legendary souped up jitney.

    I was also quite fortunate enough to see him on a few occasions with his own band featuring the truly legendary Johnny Johnson on piano. With his own band, Chuck would simply tear the house down.

    Yeah, I saw plenty if the not so great shows as well, but to quote Lord Buckley here, when he laid it down, it STAID down.

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