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Rock & roll pioneer Chuck Berry dies aged 90

An original inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Berry inspired a long list of artists who later covered his songs.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry, the pioneering rhythm-and-blues guitarist and singer who was one of rock and roll's most influential performers, has died aged 90.

First responders called to a home in a suburb outside St Louis, Missouri, on Saturday afternoon found Berry unresponsive and were unable to revive him, according to authorities in St Charles County, Missouri.

In a statement on Facebook, the St Charles County Police Department said it "sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr, better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry".

Berry's jaunty, danceable songs and high-energy performances - punctuated by his signature "duck walk" - made him one of the earliest stars of the burgeoning rock and roll scene that grew out of mid-century rhythm and blues.

His first big hit in 1955, Maybellene, became one of his signature songs, carving out a place for the new sound on the saccharine pop charts of the day.

Some of Berry's classics, covered by hundreds of artists over the decades, include Johnny B Goode and Roll Over Beethoven.

Among his other hits: You Never Can Tell, Sweet Little Sixteen, No Particular Place To Go, Nadine, and My Ding-a-Ling.

Berry was in the first class of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside contemporaries including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

"It's very difficult for me to talk about Chuck because I lifted every lick he ever played," Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards said at Berry's 1986 induction, calling him "the gentleman that started it all".

A native of St Louis, Berry blended blues and country influences, along with hot-blooded songs about love and lust that were racy enough to entice 1950s teenagers, but tame by later standards.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that he's the most influential figure in modern rock & roll," the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says in its biography of Berry. "Name any major band - the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith - and they'll have cited Berry as an inspiration."

Berry served time in prison after a 1959 accusation and conviction of sex with an underage girl, but he later continued his career undeterred, regularly touring into his 80s.

The 1987 documentary film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll depicted performances for Berry's 60th birthday.

Berry had planned to release a new CD this year.

Tributes from musicians and politicians began coming in soon after the news broke.

A Rolling Stones statement late on Saturday said the band's members were "deeply saddened" by Berry's death.

"He was a true pioneer of rock 'n' roll and a massive influence on us," the British band said. "Chuck was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter. His songs will live forever."

Ringo Starr, the former Beatle, paid tribute to Berry by quoting some of his lyrics.

"Just let me hear some of that rock 'n' roll music any old way you use it," Starr wrote on Twitter.

Bruce Springsteen, the American rock singer, said on Twitter: "This is a tremendous loss of a giant for the ages.

"Chuck Berry was rock's greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock 'n' roll writer who ever lived."

Berry's fame goes beyond the planet.

In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 1 probe, which carried a gold-plated copper disc engraved with sounds and music from around the world, including a two-minute, 38-second recording of Berry performing Johnny B Goode.

The spacecraft is now in interstellar space.


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