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Chuck Berry: The Definition of Rock and Roll

Chuck Berry: The Definition of Rock and Roll

Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry passed away on March 18, 2017. (via nico7martin, Flickr)
As John Lennon said, “If you tried to give rock ’n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” At 90 years old, Berry died on March 18, 2017 due to natural causes in his house in Missouri, according to TMZ. Despite his death, the “father of rock n’ roll”'s legacy will live on.   "He was cool," junior Kennady Smith said, "once you learn about him, you realize how much of an impact he's had on the music we listen to today". Born on October 18, 1926, Chuck Berry first discovered his love of music in the church choir, where he sang from the age of six. Before he was producing hits, he and two friends dropped out of high school and set off on a road trip to California. They didn’t make it far, as he ended up serving three years in prison for armed robbery after they went on an ill-judged robbing spree before getting arrested by highway patrolmen.   As a grandchild of slaves, Chuck Berry grew up in a self-segregated middle-class black community in St. Louis, Missouri called the Ville. Berry’s mother was one of the few black women of her generation to get a college education and his father was a successful carpenter and a deacon at the Antioch Baptist Church. Berry made music that brought people together. His first hit in the mid-1950s was “Maybellene” which was produced by Chess Records, according to the Rolling Stone Magazine. He was unique in that he blended rhythm, blues and country and, to no one's surprise, Berry was extremely popular.  Chuck Berry is considered by many to be the first true rock n’ roll musician. His songs “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over, Beethoven” were extremely successful because they appealed to both sides of the racial divide.  "I made records for people who would buy them," Berry said. "No color, no ethnic, no political—I don't want that, never did.''  Berry had found his niche. He opened Berry's Club Bandstand in the 1950s, where he attempted to combat segregation by providing a place where all races could feel comfortable dancing together, but his career was again put off track with a brief stint in jail in the 60’s.  When he got out, he started writing music again, with "You Can Never Tell" being one of the first. While prison had changed him and made him a more bitter man, his influences rang through an entirely new generation of musicians like the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. His songs continued to be hits, and the man who created rock n’ roll continued to solidify his legacy. In 1972, Berry had his first and last number one pop hit with the song "My Ding-a-Ling." Chuck Berry never missed a beat. He opened Berry Park in August of 1960, a biracial country club that averaged 200 customers a day soon thereafter. As freshman Jordan Vital puts it, "to think of all that he went through, it's pretty amazing that he accomplished all that he did". In 1985, Berry received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1986, he was the first inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Berry’s lifetime and career influences artists even still today, as his reach can be seen pervading into popular music today. As senior Ashlyn Jones said, "I don't think that kids our age know enough about him today, he had songs that single-handedly changed the face of music". Chuck Berry may have passed on, but his reach in music will never be forgotten.  
"There's only one true king of rock 'n' roll," Stevie Wonder wrote. "His name is Chuck Berry."
Sources: TMZ, Rolling Stone, Deseretnews.com, Plosin.com, BBC News, Biography.com Photo Source: Flickr

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