American musical legend Chuck Berry, 90, who helped define rock ‘n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years is dead.
St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page on Sunday.
While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, 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.
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.