Music legend Chuck Berry, regarded by some as the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was laid to rest near St. Louis last week as family, friends and fans turned out to pay their final respects. The rock ‘n’ roll icon passed away at the age of 90 on March 18.
Berry’s upbeat repertoire included top hits “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Maybellene,” and “My Ding-A-Ling,” which have become rock classics and influenced generations of musicians.
“Once Chuck Berry had some success on those early tunes and started climbing the chart, they were pretty much the same song but it changed [the] music,” said Joe Lee, guitar instructor at Richland. “All the bands that we have now we wouldn’t have [without Berry]. Led Zeppelin wouldn’t be the way it is, Hendrix wouldn’t be the way he was, Metallica, Dream Theatre or Steve Vai and the list keeps going on.”
Berry was known for his extravagant moves on stage. His signature move, the duck walk, has been imitated by numerous performers. “He was a real showman. He did the duck walk and played the guitar behind his back,” said Lee.
Rock bands including The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones have held Berry in high regard and have recorded his music. Berry was one of the few artists who crossed the race barrier at a time when segregation was a still in existence. He inspired his audiences to dance to his 12-bar blues and boogie woogie beats.
“He’s not a great technical player but he latched on to some real simple, catchy ways of playing that people were not playing [at the time], and caught a lot of folks’ ears,” said Lee. “He found a cool thing to do that nobody else was doing that the masses could relate to.”
His honorary title as the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” according to Rolling Stone magazine, is a testament to the influence of his music. He was a major figure who helped shape the rock music genre. His innovative guitar technique placed him among some of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 7 out of 100 top guitarists.
His introduction to the song “Johnny B. Goode” is familiar to many new guitarists. “He plays those Elmore James and Howling Wolf blues licks and changed it up,” said Lee.
He made a new recording before his death, his first in 37 years, which he dedicated to his wife Themetta Berry. It will be released in June. Berry was laid to rest with his cherry-red Gibson guitar bolted to the inside of his coffin lid.