Hail, hail Chuck Berry

The rock pioneer overcame prejudice to lead a teen rebellion that persists to this day

Chuck Berry, who died on March 18 at the age of 90. Peter Klaunzer /Keystone via AP
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The name Chuck Berry might not ring a bell with millennials, but without his contribution the music they listen to would be fundamentally different. Berry, who has died at 90, was a pioneer of rock’n’roll whose influence on modern music cannot be overstated.

He not only crafted catchy songs and played them with unprecedented energy, but he also opened doors that had been shut to African-American artists in the segregated American south.

Berry's signature tune Johnny B. Goode sold millions and was at the forefront of the youth rebellion of the late 1950s. Thanks to it being etched onto a gold record attached to the Voyager space probe, it could well live on for a million years or more.

From Mick Jagger to Carole King, Slash, Keith Urban, Lenny Kravitz and Bruno Mars, the greats of many generations and genres of music have paid tribute. Bruce Springsteen tweeted: “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock’n’roll writer who ever lived.” That’s high praise indeed.