Rock and roll legend is remembered at 90

Chuck Berry, pioneer of American rock and roll died of natural causes in his home March 18 at the age of 90.

Berry was born in 1926 and raised by a middle-class family in the then deeply segregated city of St. Louis, Missouri.

He grew up in a self-contained neighborhood known as the Ville, a bastion for black institutions, black businesses and, perhaps most importantly, black music, according to

It was here that Berry first showed interest in music and picked up a guitar but his commitment quickly faded as a young man.

After dropping out of high school Berry was sent to reform school following a series of robberies.

Eventually he earned a degree cosmetology, working for a short time as a beautician, and in 1948 married and started a family.

It was shortly after this that Berry began to pursue a musical career more seriously.

He was prompted by an old friend to pick the guitar back up and join his band, the Sir John’s Trio, and helped the group to gain some notoriety.

It was during this period that he developed and refined the style that would eventually reshape modern music.

Berry combined the riff based music of early electric guitarists, his raw vocals and the electrifying rhythm of boogie-woogie music to create a sound all his own. Never before had people heard a guitar used in such a way.

To compliment his uninhibited, youthful sound he sang about taboo subjects such as young love and crime. For the first time the youth were getting the uncensored, controversial subject matter they had craved but were never given.

In the years before Berry’s rise white record executives had become aware of the exciting rhythm and blues inspired music being created by black artists. Many had tried to take advantage of the growing trend but were unable to capture the valuable white audience in the deeply divided United States of the time.

With his first record, “Maybellene,” Berry had changed the landscape of music for the future to come.

Upon hearing his music young American’s of all races were hooked on the new sound. With a then unconventional role as both composer and performer Berry was able to make music uncompromising and honest enough to connect to white America in a time when such things were unheard of.

To limit Berry’s influence to his revolutionary playing ability, creative songwriting or social impact alone would not do his legacy justice. By contributing rock n’ roll Chuck Berry has inspired not just musicians but generations of thinkers around the world.