Chuck Berry, who died Saturday at 90, was one of the architects of rock ’n’ roll, as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. More than any artist of the 1950s, his songs exploded with imagery that saw rock ’n’ roll not just as a fad but as the future — a vision of freedom that transcended generation and race.
Berry’s opening solo on “Johnny B. Goode” blared reveille for subsequent generations of rockers. Every rock guitarist since is in his debt. In addition, Berry wrote and sang at least two dozen rock ’n’ roll classics, including “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Back in the U.S.A.,” many of them recorded at Chicago’s Chess Studios in the 1950s and ’60s and later covered by countless artists, including the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones.