Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) Missouri

St. Louis, MO

Sunday, April 9, 2017

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

Ladies and gentlemen;

Honored guests from around world;

First and foremost, I am here today to convey official congressional honors to a musical genius and proud son of St. Louis who created a new, quintessential American art-form…Rock n’ Roll.

Mrs. Berry, Ingrid, Melody, Aloha and Charles:

The world has come to St. Louis today to celebrate Chuck’s life and his remarkable music.

But there is another chapter in his story that…while less known, was equally historic, because it changed America for the better.

Chuck Berry did more than just create hit records.

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.

For decades, he faced down racial hatred and discrimination in clubs, in concert halls, in movies, in the criminal justice system, and even in his personal life.

At the same time that the civil rights movement was awakening the nation to the struggle for justice and equality;

Chuck used his music to smash the color barrier in popular culture.

He was the first Black recording artist to become as popular with white audiences as he was with Black audiences.

And that changed the way that America looked at race, especially with young people.

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.

And Rock n’ Roll became not just the music of young America, but a worldwide sensation that is still going strong…sixty years later.

And while Chuck faced and ultimately overcame great hardship;

He never became embittered, and he never allowed anyone or anything to rob him of his dignity or his humanity.

Instead, he used that struggle to inspire him to create more, to dream bigger dreams, and to reach even more people with the transformational power of his music.

And that’s the wonderful thing about artistic expression…it doesn’t come in a color.

It doesn’t care about race, nationality, age, or gender.

It just speaks the truth.

And millions around the world listened and loved…Chuck Berry’s truth.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and so many other all-time great musical acts, some of whom are here today… owe their success to the innovative genius of Chuck Berry.

It is no exaggeration to say that every chord and guitar solo played by rock musicians over the last 60 years contains DNA that can be traced directly back to Chuck Berry.


On behalf of the Clay family, I want to express our deepest condolences to our old friends and former neighbors in North St. Louis…the Berry family.

And on behalf of music fans everywhere, I want to give thanks for the life of this legendary artist…whose legacy and unique sound will live forever.

A true St. Louis original… and an American treasure…Chuck Berry.

May God grant him perfect rest and protection under his merciful wings…

And may he strengthen all of you with faith, courage and peace.

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