Chuck Berry was to St. Louis what Prince was to Minneapolis, what Elvis was to Memphis (and Tupelo) and what Sinatra was to Hoboken. Its citizens didn’t agree on everything, but Berry was sacrosanct.
And while genius can rise wherever, it stands to reason that Berry, who died on Saturday at 90, concocted his particular rock ’n’ roll potion growing up in the Ville neighborhood of St. Louis.
In the 1940s and ’50s the North St. Louis district was considered one of the most cultured in black America. A half century later, so many people have left that the area is pocked with abandoned property.
Now considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, the...