Rock Pioneer Chuck Berry Passes Away
March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry, one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll music, has died at the age of 90. A report from the St. Charles County Police Department confirmed that Berry was found unresponsive and could not be revived. The exact cause of death is unknown though Rolling Stone reports that Berry's son Charles Jr. had recently told the magazine his father was recovering from pneumonia.

In a statement on Berry's official Facebook page, his family said, "We are deeply saddened to announce that Chuck Berry - beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather - passed away at his home today at the age of 90. Though his health had deteriorated recently, he spent his last days at home surrounded by the love of his family and friends. The Berry family asks that you respect their privacy during this difficult time."

Berry was one of the earliest Rock superstars, starting in 1955 with his hit "Maybellene." Over the years, he wrote and recorded a series of singles that set the template for decades of Rock songs to come. Each one is an American classic that countless people know by heart. These included "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock & Roll Music," "School Days," "Sweet Little Sixteen, "No Particular Place to Go" and of course, "Johnny B. Goode." The song was immortalized in Back to the Future when Marty McFly plays it at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, causing Chuck's "cousin" Marvin Berry to give him a call and hear the tune. Berry's music soundtracked another iconic film scene in the '90s, with John Travolta and Uma Thurman's dance to "You Can Never Tell" in Pulp Fiction.

The Beatles famously covered a number of Berry's songs early in their career and John Lennon once said, "If you tried to give rock 'n' roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry.'" Berry's guitar style also was an inspiration to countless guitarists and his onstage "duck walk" became his iconic, signature move.

Berry was born in St. Louis in 1926 and learned how to play the blues as a teenager, formed a band in 1952 while working for GM and met Chess Records founder Leonard Chess via Muddy Waters a few years later. Berry was signed to Chess based off a Country-influenced song he'd written that eventually became "Maybellene."

He also had a number of run-ins with the law throughout his career, including multiple prison sentences for violating the Mann Act (which forbid transporting a woman across a state line for prostitution) and later for tax evasion. He also had a reputation as a very tough individual offstage, who stuck to a specific routine for booking and performing his concerts for decades. Berry continued to play live until 2014, despite his declining health, including a monthly gig at Blueberry Hill in his hometown. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Tributes have been pouring in on social media to Berry and you can read just some of them here.

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Nicki Farag,
SVP of Promotion,
Def Jam Recordings

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