Revolutionary blues singer Chuck Berry, often referred to as the “poet laureate” and “real king” of rock ‘n’ roll, died Saturday, police in Missouri said. He was 90.
Officers responded to Berry’s home outside St. Louis on Saturday afternoon and found him unconscious, the St. Charles County police said on Facebook. First responders were unsuccessful in reviving him and pronounced him dead at 1:26 p.m. local time.
One of the first inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Berry wove together beguiling narratives, fusing rhythm and blues with country and western — transfixing the nation.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton called Berry “one of the 20th Century’s most influential musicians.”
Known for chart-toppers such as “Johnny B Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” Berry’s career rocketed in the 1950s after signing a record deal with Chess Records at the behest of musician Muddy Waters, according to Rolling Stone.
His first hit, “Maybellene,” spent nine weeks in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard R&B chart and also rose to No. 5 on the pop charts. Berry reshaped the 1950s with a unique sound that appealed to both sides of a racially divided country.
“I made records for people who would buy them. No color, no ethnic, no political — I don’t want that, never did,” Berry told the New York Times in 2003.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said in a statement Saturday that Berry “created the rock sound.”
“Chuck Berry is rock and roll. The undisputed original king, he influenced every rock and roll artist after him and every guitarist that ever plugged in,” hall of fame President and CEO Greg Harris said in a statement.
“Today, we celebrate his poetry, his artistry and his massive contributions to 20th century culture,” Harris said. It’s fitting that he was the first person inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rock and roll as we know it would not exist without him. Hail Hail, Rock and Roll. Hail Hail, Chuck Berry.”