Chuck Berry, Rock and Roll Guitar Pioneer, Has Died at 90

March 18, 2017
PHOTO: Timothy Hiatt | Getty Images

Rock and roll guitar legend Chuck Berry died today, March 18, at age 90.

His death was confirmed by the St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri on its Facebook page.

According to the post, first responders found Berry unresponsive, and he could not be revived. He was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m.

“The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry,” reads the post.

Berry, who celebrated his 90th birthday last October 18, took that occasion to announce the release of a new album, titled Chuck, to be issued this year. It will be his first album in 38 years and feature his longtime hometown backing group, including his children Charles Berry Jr. (guitar) and Ingrid Berry (harmonica), plus Jimmy Marsala (Berry’s bassist of forty years), Robert Lohr (piano), and Keith Robinson (drums). The band has supported him for more than two decades on more than 200 residency shows at the Blueberry Hill club.

It would be impossible to overstate Chuck Berry’s influence on popular culture around the globe (and beyond it). According to Rolling Stone magazine he “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance,” and many of his compositions—“Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and others—have become the genre’s canonical texts. Another, “Johnny B. Goode,” is the only rock and roll song included on the Voyager Golden Record, launched into space in 1977, and intended to represent life and culture on Earth to extraterrestrial beings.

Berry received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, and was in the inaugural class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 1986. He was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 2000, placed #5 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time in 2010, and was given the first-ever PEN Award for literary excellence in lyric writing in 2012.
 
More recently, he was the subject of a widely discussed essay by author Chuck Klosterman predicting that hundreds of years hence, Berry would be singularly synonymous with rock and roll itself, and last month his classic 1973 red Cadillac Eldorado went on display as part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American Culture and History.

Below is a classic clip of Berry jamming “School Days” with Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, from the 1987 concert film Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll.


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