Scroll to Top

Legendary Rock-and-Roll Star Chuck Berry Dies at 90

By Patrick Washington / Published on Sunday, 19 Mar 2017 06:25 AM / No Comments

Popglitz is sad to announce that Chuck Berry, rock-and-roll pioneer, was found unresponsive and proclaimed dead at his home in Wentzville, Missouri, south of St. Louis at the ripe age of 90. Berry was known for such classic hits as “Maybellene (1955)”, “Roll Over Beethoven (1956)”, “Rock and Roll (1957)” and the much acclaimed “Johnnie B. Goode (1958)”. His music style defined the rock-and-roll genre and inspired generations of artists that came after him.

During the 1950s, Berry is credited with being instrumental in the development of rock-and-roll and back in era of Jim Crow, he helped to transform rock-and-roll from being just “race music” to opening it to a wider (whiter) audience making it a mainstream genre that ignited the careers of fellow artists like the famed Elvis Presley. This is why many consider Chuck Berry as the “Father of Rock and Roll.”

If you tried to give rock-and-roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry. – (Beatles Star John Lennon)

Charles Edward Anderson Berry was born the fourth child out of six to Henry and Martha Berry in St. Louis, Missouri on October 18, 1926. His father was a contractor and Baptist deacon while his mother worked as a public school principal. Therefore, he fared better than many other blacks during that era although still being restrained by many of the Jim Crow customs of the time.

From an early age, he demonstrated a musical talent learning to play the guitar and performing at Sumner High School. He was also to draw from several influences including gospel, blues, rhythm & blues and even some country. That definitely helped him as he went on to become a musical legend himself.

In early adulthood, he had numerous jobs including factory worker, automobile assemblyman, janitor and even was trained as a beautician. He was doing everything possible to support his young family. By the 1950s, he had married Themetta “Toddy” Suggs and fathered a daughter, Darlin Ingrid Berry. At the time, he was just using music to make some extra music.

However, music became a career when he start performing with another legend, Pianist Johnnie Johnson, and from there, it was not too long that Chuck Berry rocketed to stardom and fame. Johnnie and Chuck continued to have a professional partnership together for many years to come as well.

In 1955, Chuck had his first break out hit with “Maybellene” which sold over a million copies and then he matched that success with “Roll Over Beethoven” that reached number 29 on the Billboard’s Top 100. During the rest of the 1950s, he continued to make hits including “School Days (1957),” “Rock and Roll Music (1957),” “Sweet Little Sixteen (1958),” and “Johnnie B. Goode (1958).” With appearances in several films, Chuck Berry had became a household name by the end of the decade.

However in 1959, Berry was arrested for allegations of having sexual intercourse with a minor. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in 1963 but by that time, he had lost considerable support and literally had to start from scratch to get back to the top. Fortunately, if anyone was capable of making a comeback, it was none other than Chuck Berry.

The British Invasion of the early 1960s sparked interests in Chuck Berry’s music. Both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were heavily influenced by him. The Beach Boys also sampled some of his music for their hit “Surfin U.S.A. (1963).”

He began to produce hits again including “Nadine (1964),” “No Particular Place to Go (1964),” “You Can Never Tell (1964),” and “Promised Land (1965).” His biggest hit came in 1972 with “My Ding a Ling.” His career took off with him doing tours across the country and overseas and he even got to perform for the president.

By the 1980s, the Missouri native was recognized as a living legend being one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. The Voyager even chose some of his music to send out to space to detect intelligent life beyond Earth.

Therefore Chuck Berry may be gone but his music shall still live on.

Patrick Washington
Patrick N. Washington is a resident and native of Central Virginia. He has been engaged in political activism since he was a teenager. Patrick is the former vice-chair of the Petersburg Republican Committee. He presently serves as secretary of the Hopewell Republican Committee and as vice-chair of the Hopewell Electoral Board. He is also an ordained minister and has presided over the Enlightenment Synagogue since 2012.