Legendary musician Chuck Berry, who was central to the development of rock and roll beginning in the '50s with indelible hits like "Roll Over Beethoven," "Rock and Roll Music" and "Johnny B. Goode," died today in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90 years old. His death was confirmed by the St. Charles County Police department.
Charles Edward Berry grew up in Saint Louis, Mo. the fourth of six children, developing a career that epitomized a bad-boy image which musicians have tried to cop ever since. Berry was the real thing. He spent time in reform school for robbery at 18 (with a nonfunctional pistol, he claimed), went to prison for income tax evasion and transported a minor across state lines for quote "immoral purposes."
Initially beginning his career as a beautician with an lifelong interest in music, Berry began to slowly ease towards the St. Louis nightlife scene in the early '50s as a member of the Jonnie Johnson trio. As a solo musician, he emulated the smooth vocals of his idol Nat King Cole and admired the gritty blues of another idol, Muddy Waters. Berry told NPR in 2000 that he met Waters after 1955 show in Chicago, who then directed him to Chess Records. From there, it was history.
Berry continued creating well into his later years — his released a record last October at the age of 90 following a 38-year hiatus.