Saturday, March 18, 2017

Obituary: Chuck Berry

After a couple of months of relative silence of deaths of truly prominent people, today we sadly note the death of one of rock music's greats, Chuck Berry. He was one of the first inductees of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and his songs and guitar work influenced generations of musicians.

He was truly a giant in the field of music even though he did get plagued with some scandals, including getting into trouble with transporting a young girl across state lines, violating the Mann Act, and got into trouble supposedly filming women and girls in restrooms of some enterprise that he owned.

Sometimes it is better not to know what public figures do in their private lives because it can force people to hate their guts.

Berry, fortunately, is best remembered for his many memorable songs. He was one of the first people to both perform and write his own work. His songs were anthems of the 1950s and continue to be widely played today.

He had a medical emergency at home, but unfortunately he couldn't be saved by emergency personnel.

From the link:

While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they did themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.

His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.

In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons.

Chuck Berry was truly one of the giants of popular music.

One of his most famous songs:

From Rolling Stone:

While the exact cause of death is currently unknown, Berry's son, Charles Jr., recently told Rolling Stone that he had suffered a bout of pneumonia. "Now what I can say is he's a 90-year-old man," he said. "And like most 90-year-old men, he has good days and he has bad days. In the not too distant past, he had a bout with pneumonia. He's recovering, but it's a much slower process for him to recover."

Tributes to the musician from admirers came immediately. "The Rolling Stones are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry," the band wrote in a statement. "He was a true pioneer of rock & roll and a massive influence on us. Chuck was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter. His songs will live forever."

"Chuck Berry was rock's greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock & roll writer who ever lived," Bruce Springsteen wrote on Twitter, while Brian Wilson wrote, "I am so sad to hear about Chuck Berry passing - a big inspiration! He will be missed by everyone who loves Rock & Roll. Love & Mercy." Kiss' Paul Stanley called Berry " a cornerstone of all that is, was and will be Rock and Roll," with Lenny Kravitz noting that "none of us would have been here without you."

Chuck Berry was married only once, to Themetta Suggs since 1948.

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