Chuck Berry, considered one of the undisputed pioneers of rock 'n' roll, has died at age 90, according to St. Charles County Police in St. Louis, Missouri, where Berry was born, and ABC7.com.
Police confirmed they responded to a medical emergency Saturday at 12:40 p.m. at Berry's St. Louis home. Berry was found to be unresponsive and, in spite of life-saving measures that were administered, he was declared dead at 1:26 p.m., according to police.
The department issued a statement that read, "The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry. The family requests privacy during this time of bereavement."
To celebrate turning 90, the rocker announced last fall he would release his first album in 38 years — "Chuck" — sometime in 2017 on the Nashville-based label Dualtone. The album, his twentieth, is said to consist mostly of new tracks written and produced by the legend, and to have been recorded in St. Louis.
Berry said at the time of his announcement that the album was in honor of his wife of nearly 70 years, Thelmetta aka Toddy, noting in a statement, "This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy. My darlin’ I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!”
Berry was born into a middle-class family, but had to overcome an early run-in with the law when he did time in a reformatory in the 1940s for an armed robbery conviction. He then married Thelmetta and began working in auto assembly before he was lured into music by his love for the music of swing artist Louis Jordan.
The rocker, a virtuoso guitarist and showman, became famous for his wild guitar licks and for playing while squatting and kicking his way across the stage, a move as iconic in music as Michael Jackson's later moonwalk.
Berry's hits were many and influential, starting with the #5 smash "Maybellene" in 1955. Other indelible hits include "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), "School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell)" (1957), "Sweet Little Sixteen" (1958), and the hit with which he will forever be most closely associated, "Johnny B. Goode" (1958).
Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) performance of "Johnny B. Goode" became a highlight of the 1985 movie "Back to the Future."
Berry's 1964 hit "You Never Can Tell" was also later used memorably in a film — in the big dance scene in "Pulp Fiction" (1994). It had been written by Berry while he was in prison, serving time for violating the Mann Act — transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines for allegedly "immoral purposes." Berry had hired a girl from Mexico to work in his nightclub. After she was fired, she told police his intentions had been sexual. The 20 months Berry spent in prison was said by some, including fellow rocker Carl Perkins, to have embittered the previously happy-go-lucky musician.
In spite of his prison record, Berry was able to continue his successful career.
He was the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000, and was in the very first class of rock legends inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986.
Considering the rash of deaths of '80s musicians, it had been surprising that some of the pillars of '50s rock were still with us, including Berry; Little Richard, who is 84; and Jerry Lee Lewis, who is now 81.
John Lennon once suggested rock 'n' roll be renamed "Chuck Berry." Watch the two icons perform together in the 1970s here.