Chuck Berry turned 90 on 18 October with an announcement as electric and spectacular as his rock’n’roll riffs: He will be releasing a new LP, simply called Chuck, next year on Dualtone Records. It will feature all new songs, and will be the musician’s first album in 38 years, since 1979’s Rock It.

Chuck will be a family affair: it was recorded with his children Charles Berry Jr on guitar and Ingrid Berry on harmonica, along with his decades-old back-up band featuring drummer Keith Robinson, pianist Robert Lohr and bassist Jimmy Marsala. Over the last two decades, Berry and this band have performed almost daily at the rock’n’roll legend’s Blueberry club in St Louis.

The album is dedicated to Themetta Berry, Berry’s wife of 68 years.

“This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy," Berry said in a statement. “My darlin’, I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!"

“These songs cover the spectrum from hard driving rockers to soulful thought provoking time capsules of a life’s work,"Charles Berry Jr said in a statement."... the Blueberry Hill Band fell right into the groove and followed his lead."

The cover of the album
The cover of the album

Berry played a defining role in rock music from the very first song he released—Maybellene, in 1955 . It was a groundbreaking year for rock—Little Richard released Tutti Frutti and Johnny Cash sang Folsom Prison Blues. The first riots at Elvis Presley and Fats Domino concerts were reported. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, still in high school then, wrote their first song. Maybellene belonged to that firmament: the raw, staccato guitar riff framing his fast, driving rhymes, pouring out in long bursts of humorous lyrics, with a quick, dirty solo thrown in. It set the template for the age of rock.

In the fifties and sixties, Berry was indefatigable, iconoclastic, and pioneering. The urgency of his guitar-playing and singing —rising, falling, wailing, brimming over but held back, like something writhing to get out of chains, influenced all the great rock bands and musicians that came after him, from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen.

Paul McCartney called him “one of the greatest poets America has ever produced". Keith Richards said that he had lifted every lick that Berry ever played.

In an early video of Berry on youtube , the announcer says “let’s turn him loose". And that’s exactly what it was—what Little Richard was doing with the piano, Berry was doing with his guitar—unfettering it, making it primal, digging deep into the roots of the blues and pushing it forward to it’s electrifying future at the same time.

Berry was singing for a new generation, a new era . Songs of jukeboxes, shotgun weddings, fast cars and open roads, easy romance and a bit of heartbreak. They were celebratory, sexy, steeped in teenage hormones .

“Hail, hail, rock’n’roll / Deliver me from the days of old", he sang, and it was a signal for a new age to break away from the past.

With Chuck, perhaps, Berry is making yet another statement: Rock’n’roll never dies.

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