Friday, May 7, 2021

Celebs Pack Final Farewell to Chuck Berry in St. Louis

Chuck Berry memorial in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri
Chuck Berry memorial in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri

*Chuck Berry was laid to rest Sunday in his following two memorials in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

The music legend died March 18th at the age of 90.

Early Sunday, hundreds of fans attended a four-hour public viewing at the city’s Pageant venue. The music icon was dressed in a white suit, purple sequined shirt and iconic Captain’s hat accompanied by his red Gibson ES-335 guitar.

A guitar-shaped floral arrangement, sent from the Rolling Stones, was positioned next to Berry’s casket. Its inscription read: “Thank you for the inspiration. With fondest memories, Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie, the Rolling Stones.”

Fans lucky enough to nab one of 300 tickets joined Berry’s friends, family and fellow musicians at the private ceremony later that afternoon at the same venue.

Following the viewing, the private “Celebration of Life” service was held, with Kiss’ Gene Simmons, former “Late Show” bandleader Paul Shaffer and Marshall Chess, the son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess, among those paying their respects to Berry.

The service opened with Missouri congressman William Lacy Clay reading remarks written by former president Bill Clinton, who recruited Berry to perform at both of his presidential inaugurations.

“He is one of America’s greatest rock & roll pioneers,” Clinton wrote. “He captivated audiences around the world. His music spoke to the hopes and dreams we all had in common. Me and Hillary grew up listening to him.”

Simmons, who didn’t plan on speaking at the service, took the podium and said: “He was breaking down barriers that no one suspected. Chuck, he changed more little white boys’ and white girls’ lives than all the politicians and their talk.” The Kiss bassist added: “Maybe Chuck said it best: ‘Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.’ Buckle your knees, bow your head, the great Chuck Berry is passing by.”

Shaffer credited Berry as the man “who invented rock & roll,” while Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president Joel Peresman acknowledged that “from the first brick, everything that was built was based on Chuck Berry,” who was among the Rock Hall’s first inductees.

Letters of tribute penned by Paul McCartney – “As you probably know, Chuck was a huge influence on me and my companions, and I will always remain a great fan of his wonderful music,” he wrote – and Little Richard were also read to mourners.

Within the “Celebration of Life” program, Themetta “Toddy” Berry, Chuck’s wife of 68 years, penned a letter to her late husband:

Among the performers at the Berry memorial included Johnny Rivers, who had hits in the early Sixties with covers of Berry’s “Memphis” and “Maybellene” and played “Blue Suede Shoes” at the service, two of Berry’s grandchildren and some members of Berry’s backing band, including Billy Peek, who doled out “Johnny B. Goode.”

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