NPR logo

Rock 'N' Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dies At 90

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520788144/520788161" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Rock 'N' Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dies At 90

Remembrances

Rock 'N' Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dies At 90

Rock 'N' Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dies At 90

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/520788144/520788161" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Chuck Berry is being remembered as the man who taught the world rock and roll. Berry, who died at age 90, dared to swagger, crafted the guitar riff and emphasized storytelling.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

What a tremendous loss in the world of music over the weekend. The singer-songwriter rock-n-roll innovator Chuck Berry died on Saturday. You know, we've been reaching out to musicians. And one thing we keep hearing is that he was so much more than an icon because he was also a teacher.

ALICE COOPER: The Beatles had to learn Chuck Berry. The Rolling Stones had to learn Chuck Berry. Everything's based on those chords that he developed, the, you know, sort of the blues progression of, you know, "Johnny B. Goode."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOHNNY B. GOODE")

CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Play a guitar just like ringing a bell.

GREENE: That's heavy metal musician Alice Cooper, a star of the '70s who said he learned from Berry's music of the 1950s.

COOPER: "Under My Wheels" is - from our collection of songs is pure Chuck Berry.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNDER MY WHEELS")

COOPER: (Singing) The telephone is ringing. You got me on the run.

MARTY SCHWARTZ: He took, you know, what you would call the 12-bar blues and made it more upbeat. Those three chords, it's really just like three little boogie chords that when you listen to it, you want to keep hearing it over and over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN")

CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Sweet little 16.

GREENE: That is the voice of Marty Schwartz. He is a guitar teacher from San Marcos, Calif. And he says part of Chuck Berry's genius was the way he made infectious music using just three chords.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Cooper says that simple basis for the music made it easy for him to tour.

COOPER: He never traveled with a band. Because he'd go into a city and he'd say get me a local band because every band could play Chuck Berry.

INSKEEP: But it wasn't just the music that made Berry special.

COOPER: It's the wordplay, the wordsmith in it - running to and fro, hard working at the mill, never failed at the mail, here come a rotten bill. It just - the first time I heard it, I went come on. That's too good.

GREENE: That is Alice Cooper remembering Chuck Berry, who died over the weekend at the age of 90.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOO MUCH MONKEY BUSINESS")

CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Running to and fro, hard working at the mill. Never failed in the mail, here come a rotten bill.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.