Chuck Berry died today at his home in Missouri according to a statement posted by the police on Facebook. Police responded to an emergency call from the home and found Berry unresponsive and after trying unsuccessfully to revive him he was pronounced dead at 1:26 P.M. Berry was 90 years old.
Berry started building his legacy in rock with the hit song “Maybellene” in 1955. The 50’s were a productive time for him and “Roll Over Beethoven” would follow and by the end of the decade he had seven hits in total and a worldwide following with admiration from people like Mick Jagger and John Lennon. His guitar style, lyrics and famous duck walk became the very definition of rock and roll. Peter Tosh, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead and the Sex Pistols are some of the bands who covered his songs.
Berry’s status as one of the first Black rock icons was challenged in the ’60’s when he was convicted for allegedly bringing a young woman across state lines for prostitution. His popularity with white female teenagers many times attracted protestors to his shows. When he emerged from prison in 1963 he went back to recording and performing but his days of innovation were gone and his last original album was 1979’s Rock It.
Berry was honored in 1987 with the Taylor Hackford documentary Hail! Hail! Rock a’n‘ Roll which focused on two concerts celebrating Berry’s 60th birthday. Keith Richards, Etta James, Roy Orbison, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Linda Ronstadt and Julian Lennon appeared on the documentary. Berry continued to perform locally at a club called Blueberry Hill.
Last year Berry celebrated his 90th birthday by announcing the first new album in 38 years simply titled Chuck. He dedicated the album to his wife of 68 years Themetta Berry. Chuck was scheduled to come out in 2017.