Musical palate cleanser: Chuck Berry is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself.

He was 90, but, still, damn, just damn.

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. Mr. Berry died at his home near Wentzville, Mo., about 45 miles west of St. Louis. The department said it responded to a medical emergency and he was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.

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 knew 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.

Or to put it more succinctly,

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend, and we jumped on it.”

The coolest thing about Chuck Berry is this:

And Mr. Berry’s music has remained on tour extraterrestrially. “Johnny B. Goode” is on golden records within the Voyager I and II spacecraft, launched in 1977 and awaiting discovery.

That may not be immortality, but it ain’t bad.  Nor was Saturday Night Live’s take on it.

Meanwhile, back on earth, it’s hard to beat Ron Wood’s tribute on his passing.

Chuck Berry will be missed, but never forgotten.

Hail, Hail, rock ‘n roll.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Musical palate cleanser: Chuck Berry is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself.

  1. 3rdandGrantham

    Greatest rock musician of all time. Hell, he was THE inventor of rock and roll, so you’d be hard pressed arguing otherwise.

    Chuck Berry “Gold” remains to this day my favorite album of all time.

    Rollover Beetoven…you have some elite company joining you shortly.

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  2. Tronan

    His premature consignment to the dustbin of history in the 60s had a silver lining for kids who weren’t around for his first brush with fame. A lot of people my age (early 50s) gained exposure to him was via occasional TV appearances, when he didn’t even have a recording contract anymore. He was completely new to us and – considering how bloated pop music had become by 1973 – pretty exciting. His full steam ahead, balls out rockin’ also helped prepare a lot of us for punk (which, though much angrier, was all about raw energy and rhythm).

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  3. Raleighwood Dawg

    May he rest in peace with the other rock ‘n roll icons. Maybelline is one of my favorite songs. “I tooted my horn for the passin’ lane

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  4. Cojones

    Friday evening, friends and I were requesting Alexa to play the best remembrances of rock and roll and my selection was “Roll Over Beethoven”. We celebrated his music not knowing how prophetic Alexa was to provide those sounds.

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  5. Russ

    He got his money’s worth, but should’ve gotten more recognition.

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  6. This song wasn’t one of his most popular, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person