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Chuck Berry, rock ’n’ roll pioneer, dies at 90

Over the years, the American rock ’n’ roll icon, who served as both his mentor and nemesis, punched Richards in the face, kicked him off stage and once attempted to light him on fire. [...] when Mr. Berry, who died Saturday at his home in St. Charles County, Mo., at age 90, won Sweden’s Polar music prize in 2014 — the musical equivalent of the Nobel prize — the irascible Rolling Stones guitarist didn’t hold back his devotion. Mr. Berry was one of the key architects of rock ’n’ roll in the 1950s — a seminal figure whose wild songs about cars, girls and school days had a direct influence on the Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys, plus just about everyone else who followed. Mr. Berry was a rare triple threat in the genre’s formative years, writing, singing and performing his own music; delivering it with his signature duckwalk for good measure. Even though his songs so perfectly captured the spirit and attitude of adolescence, Mr. Berry was already 30, married and the father of two when he made his first recording, “Maybellene,” in 1955. Hits such as “Rock and Roll Music,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven” all feel timeless, handed down through the years via movies, oldies radio stations, jukeboxes and retro diners. The Beatles began their first U.S. concert, at the Washington Coliseum, in 1956 with “Roll Over Beethoven.” When Bob Dylan went electric, he acknowledged that 1965’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was inspired directly by Mr. Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business.” There were scraps with the law, mostly involving car thefts and robbery, but by 21 he was out of reform school and in 1948 married his girlfriend, Themetta Suggs. Despite Mr. Berry’s charisma, race played a factor in preventing him from achieving Elvis-like levels of commercial success in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Starting in the late 1950s, Mr. Berry parlayed his earnings into Club Bandstand, a racially integrated nightclub in St. Louis, and purchased real estate for an amusement park, Berry Park, in Wentzville, Mo. Mr. Berry’s 1972 recording, “My Ding-a-Ling,” a smutty sing-along written by New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew, would be his last entry in the charts and his only hit not to come from his own pen. Alongside Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Little Richard and an elite group of others, Mr. Berry laid the groundwork for a new, revolutionary cultural movement. Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic.

Article by By Aidin Vaziri (c) Page One News - Read full story here.