Forget all those upstarts who just spent the last two weekends at Desert Trip in Indio: In conjunction with his 90th birthday today, rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry has announced the release next year of his first new album in nearly 40 years.
Titled “Chuck,” the album consists largely of new songs written and produced by the man considered one of the founding fathers of rock music.
“It is a great honor to be a part of this record and the broader legacy of Chuck Berry, said Paul Roper, president of Dualtone Records, which plans to release the album at an unspecified date next year. “This body of work stands with the best of his career and will further cement Chuck as one of the greatest icons of rock and roll.”
As a singer, songwriter, guitarist and performer, Berry helped create the template for the rock ’n’ roll star still widely emulated 60 years later.
In a statement, Berry said, “This record is dedicated to my beloved Toddy,” the nickname for his wife of 68 years, Themetta Berry. “My darlin’ I’m growing old! I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes!”
He is backed for the album by two of his children-- guitarist Charles Berry Jr. and harmonica player Ingrid Berry. Other players include bassist Jimmy Marsala, pianist Robert Lohr and drummer Keith Robinson.
Berry has been telling interviewers for years that he was working on a new album, and he has finally completed it, having recorded in various studios around his longtime home in St. Louis. His most recent studio release prior to “Chuck” was “Rock It,” issued in 1979.
He and his band for years had a residency at the St. Louis club Blueberry Hill.
“What an honor to be part of this new music,” Charles Berry Jr. said in the same statement. “The St. Louis band — or as Dad called us, ‘The Blueberry Hill Band’ — fell right into the groove and followed his lead. These songs cover the spectrum from hard driving rockers to soulful thought provoking time capsules of a life’s work.”
Berry was among the original 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986, and he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 1984. He also was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2000.
Perhaps most revealing of the broad-reaching impact of genre-defining songs such as “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Maybellene,” “Sweet Little 16” and “Rock and Roll Music,” it was “Johnny B. Goode” that NASA chose as the only rock recording to be sent into outer space on the Voyager space probe in 1977.
“Saturday Night Live” famously poked at the idea of what response Berry’s music would have if encountered by an extraterrestrial civilization, and created a mock Time magazine cover with their message back to Earth: “Send More Chuck Berry.”
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