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18 March 2017

Chuck Berry 1926-2017: “The only true king of rock’n’roll“

The groundbreaking singer has died aged 90. 

By Julia Rampen

Chuck Berry, the “father of rock’n’roll”, has died aged 90, a year after announcing his first album in four decades.

Charles Edward Anderson Berry, better known as Chuck Berry, was born into a middle-class African-American family in St Louis, Missouri. He first rose to fame in the 1950s with songs such as “Maybellene” and “Rock and Roll Music”. In particular, “Roll Over Beethoven”, which jokingly told the classical greats to give way, became “the ultimate rock and roll call to arms”, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

He would go on to inspire the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Both bands released covers of his songs.

Although Berry stopped recording studio albums in 1979, on his 90th birthday he announced he would be releasing “Chuck”, an album dedicated to his wife Themetta. . 

As the news broke of his death, tributes began pouring in. Bruce Springsteent tweeted that Berry was “the greatest pure rock’n’roll writer who ever lived”.

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But Berry – thanks in part to his (by rock’n’roll standards) unusually long life – has already been widely acknowledged as one of the instrumental musicians in modern popular culture. Here are how some of the other musical legends described him in his own lifetime:

“All of us are footnotes to the words of Chuck Berry”

Leonard Cohen

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”

– John Lennon

“One of greatest poets America has ever produced.” 

Paul McCartney

“There’s only one true king of rock ‘n’ roll. His name is Chuck Berry.”

– Stevie Wonder

“Chuck Berry was the key to everything that happened in the 60s.”

– Dave Davies, The Kinks

“Chuck Berry, we all love you”

Michael Jackson

“The Shakespeare of rock’n’roll”

– Bob Dylan

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