St. Louis, MO (KMOX) – His legacy went beyond just the creation of a new musical genre.
As they remembered the life of Chuck Berry at his funeral Sunday, friends and colleagues celebrated his music’s ability to bridge the racial divide in America.
Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay spoke of how Berry smashed the color barrier. Clay said “He combined his artistic genius with his enormous personal courage to help break down the barriers of race, intolerance and bigotry in this country through his music.”
Clay also pointed out, “Prior to Chuck’s success on the charts, the work of most Black musicians was referred to by White America as ‘race music.’ But after Chuck Berry, it was just Rock n’ Roll.”
Musician Daryl Davis says Berry started performing at a time when whites and blacks were separated at music clubs by ropes.
The service closed with an emotional tribute by Berry’s long-time friend, guitarist/composer/producer Billy Peek, who with his voice cracking, said, “Thank you for the ride, Chuck, may you rest in peace.”
With his hit Maybellene, Chuck Berry is credited as the first black artist to successfully cross over to white radio stations.
Saturday night at the Pageant there was a toast to the late Chuck Berry. It came from Gene Simmons of KISS who was there performing with his new band.
Simons told the crowd if it hadn’t been for the founding fathers like Berry, groups like Kiss and the Rolling Stones would never have made it to the stage.