clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chuck Berry, the father of rock ’n’ roll, has died at 90

2012 Awards For Lyrics Of Literary Excellence Photo by Marc Andrew Deley/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Chuck Berry, the father of rock ’n’ roll, has died at age 90. His death was confirmed by the St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri, who found Berry at his home on Saturday afternoon.

Berry, who broke out in the 1950s, was instrumental in building rock out of the blues and swing of the ’40s. His first hit, 1955’s “Maybellene,” was a cover of a country song that preserved the country twang but added an unmistakably rock ’n’ roll attitude — with guitar licks to match.

“I wanted to sing like Nat Cole,” Berry told Johnny Carson in 1987, “with lyrics like Louis Jordan, with the swing of Benny Goodman, with Charlie Christian on guitar, playing Carl Hogan's riffs, with the soul of Muddy Waters."

Berry was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, shortly after it was established in 1983, and countless rock stars who’ve followed him have named him one of their greatest influences.

“In my universe, Chuck is irreplaceable," said Bob Dylan.

Keith Richards said, “Chuck Berry, he just leapt out of the radio at me. I ate him basically, I mean I breathed him — it wasn’t just food, he was the air I breathed.”

“If you had to give rock ’n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry,” said John Lennon.

Berry’s music may well outlive us all. The two Voyager space probes NASA launched into space in 1977 both contain a phonograph player and a golden record loaded with sounds to tell any aliens who might find the records something about the people of earth. On each record? Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.