Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry (Courtesy photo)

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A pioneer of the rock ‘n’ roll genre and one of the first inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Chuck Berry has died at the age of 90 in Ladue, Missouri — not far from his hometown of St. Louis.

Berry penned a great number of hits in the 1950s and 1960s including “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music” that influenced generations of rock groups, including The Beatles.

He would combine a creative blend of blues, country and jazz to produce his definitive rock and roll sound. Berry first began playing guitar and performing as a teenager, holding a number of jobs before achieving stardom and becoming known for his unique sound and “duck walk.”

He would become so popular that he would often travel the country with only his guitar, finding local musicians to serve as his backup band.

In the later days of the civil rights movement, his predilection for young white girls would prove to be his downfall. After a teenage coat-check girl who worked briefly at a club he owned claimed that they’d had an affair, Berry was sentenced to two years in prison. In 1979, a tax evasion charge briefly sent him back to prison. Then, in 1990, a police raid on a recording center he owned uncovered marijuana and images of Berry with nude women. All of the charges were later dropped.

Berry continued to write music until his death, often performing at a local restaurant and club called Blueberry Hill.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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