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The Kirkwood Call

Chuck Berry dies at age 90

photo courtesy of Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License

photo courtesy of Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License

Brendan Davidson, designer

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Before Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, there was Chuck Berry.

While Elvis was considered to be the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Berry defined it. The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll died at the age of 90 at his home in Wentzville, Mo. March 18. The St. Charles Police Department responded to a medical emergency and lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

Berry was born in Ladue Oct. 18, 1926 into a segregated, middle class neighborhood. His music was heavily influenced by the blues, country and R&B. Berry attended Sumner High School in downtown St. Louis and got into trouble with the law after he graduated. He then settled down to get married and had a steady job at an automobile factory before his music career took off.

Berry traveled to Chicago and worked with Chess Records to create his first hit, “Maybellene,” in 1955. This was the start of a 3-year period in which he created hit after hit, which included “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Carol.” He created songs about his teenage years such as “Rock and Roll Music” and “School Day.” He addressed racial prejudices, most famously in “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” His most famous song, “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958, was a huge hit and was later preserved as a golden record on the Voyager I and II in 1977.

Berry’s career declined in the ’60s after serving more jail time, but he continued to make music and perform with other bands.  He was among the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986 along with other early influences like Elvis and Little Richard. He later performed at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant in the Loop, one Wednesday a month from 1996 to 2014.

On Berry’s 90th birthday, he announced the release of a new album, Chuck, his first in 38 years. The album will be released this June. Early in his career, he owned buildings such as a restaurant called the Southern Air in Wentzville and a club called the Club Bandstand in downtown St. Louis. Even though they were short lived, Berry’s establishments and presence had a significant impact on the city.

The original genius behind rock ‘n’ roll will be missed.  

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Student newspaper of Kirkwood High School.
Chuck Berry dies at age 90