Remembering a rock ‘n’ roll revolutionary



Chuck Berry in 1973 (Photo courtesy of AP Images)

Chuck Berry, American guitarist and singer-songwriter, died in his home near Wentzville, Mo. at the age of 90 on March 18. He was considered a rock and roll pioneer by many. He is best known for his classic songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

According to, Berry was born Oct. 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Mo. He showed an interest of music at school and church. At an early age, he began teaching himself how to play the guitar and later began lessons while studying jazz with Ira Harris, a local legend. He was a risk taker who ended up spending several years in prison at the age of 17.

In 1955, he would end up meeting Muddy Waters, who pushed him towards contacting the record label Chess Records. Weeks later, he recorded “Maybellene,” the hit that got him a contract with Chess. The signature guitar licks mixed with the Chicago blues was a recipe for success.

Students who have taken the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll course that COD offers, know that the name Chuck Berry was not skipped in the curriculum. Professor Mikael Jacobson said, “He was important primarily for the guitar, he totally defined electric guitar for rock ‘n’ roll. The Beatles, the [Rolling] Stones, Led Zeppelin, wouldn’t be who they were if it wasn’t for Chuck Berry.”

“Nobody was writing lyrics like he [Chuck Berry] was in the 1950s…he was a triple threat,” said Jacobson emphasizing Berry’s famous duck walk and on-stage dance moves.

Music legends like Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger expressed their admiration for his work in the music industry. Paul McCartney’s website tribute stated: “He was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest poets. He will be missed but remembered by everyone who ever loved rock ‘n’ roll.” Berry will continue remain of the most influential characters of music history.

According to Billboard, Berry’s family announced that on April 9, 2017 a public viewing will be held in his hometown of St. Louis.

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