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Music legend Chuck Berry remembered in rock 'n' roll style

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/9/2017 By JEFF ROBERSON, Associated Press
Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Family, friends and fans paid their final respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry on Sunday, celebrating the life and career of a man who inspired countless guitarists and bands.

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2007, file photo, legendary U.S. musician Chuck Berry performs on stage at the Avo Session in Basel, Switzerland. Fans can file past Berry's casket later Sunday, April 9, 2017, at a St. Louis club where he often performed. After the public viewing, a private service will be held for family and friends of the music legend, who died March 18, 2017, at age 90. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2007, file photo, legendary U.S. musician Chuck Berry performs on stage at the Avo Session in Basel, Switzerland. Fans can file past Berry's casket later Sunday, April 9, 2017, at a St. Louis club where he often performed. After the public viewing, a private service will be held for family and friends of the music legend, who died March 18, 2017, at age 90. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP, File)

The celebration began with a public viewing at The Pageant, a music club in Berry's hometown of St. Louis where he often played. Hundreds of fans filed past Berry, whose beloved cherry-red Gibson guitar was bolted to the inside of his coffin's lid.

Fans stand in line for a chance to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing ahead of his celebration of life and private burial Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans stand in line for a chance to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing ahead of his celebration of life and private burial Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

"I am here because Chuck Berry meant a lot to anybody who grew up on rock n' roll," said Wendy Mason, who drove in from Kansas City, Kansas, for the visitation. "The music will live on forever."

FILE - In this Saturday, May 30, 2009 file photo, Chuck Berry performs at The Domino Effect, a tribute concert to New Orleans rock and roll musician Fats Domino, at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans. Fans can file past Berry's casket later Sunday, April 9, 2017, at a St. Louis club where he often performed. After the public viewing, a private service will be held for family and friends of the music legend, who died March 18 at age 90. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Saturday, May 30, 2009 file photo, Chuck Berry performs at The Domino Effect, a tribute concert to New Orleans rock and roll musician Fats Domino, at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans. Fans can file past Berry's casket later Sunday, April 9, 2017, at a St. Louis club where he often performed. After the public viewing, a private service will be held for family and friends of the music legend, who died March 18 at age 90. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Another fan, Nick Hair, brought his guitar with him from Nashville, Tennessee, so he could play Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" while waiting in line outside.

Alan Bozich, left, holds up his phone to watch a video of Chuck Berry as he stands in line with Jimmy Herrmann, right, to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend during Berry's public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Alan Bozich, left, holds up his phone to watch a video of Chuck Berry as he stands in line with Jimmy Herrmann, right, to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend during Berry's public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

After the public viewing, family and friends packed the club for a private funeral service and celebration of Berry, who inspired generations of musicians, from humble garage bands up to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The service was expected to include live music, and the Rev. Alex I. Peterson told the gathering they would be celebrating Berry's life in rock 'n roll style.

Fans stand in line for a chance to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing ahead of his celebration of life and private burial Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans stand in line for a chance to pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing ahead of his celebration of life and private burial Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Former President Bill Clinton sent a letter that was read at the funeral by U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay because Berry played at both of Clinton's presidential inaugurations. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Clinton called Berry "one of America's greatest rock and roll pioneers."

Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

"He captivated audiences around the world," Bill Clinton wrote. "His music spoke to the hopes and dreams we all had in common. Me and Hillary grew up listening to him."

Fans look at a flower arrangement in the shape of a guitar sent by members of the Rolling Stones during a public viewing for rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans look at a flower arrangement in the shape of a guitar sent by members of the Rolling Stones during a public viewing for rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss wasn't scheduled to speak but someone urged him to take the podium. Simmons said Berry had a tremendous influence on him as a musician, and he worked to break down racial barriers through his music.

Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Paul McCartney and Little Richard both sent notes of condolences. At the end of the funeral, a brass band played "St. Louis Blues" while Berry's casket was carried out.

Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Fans pay their respects to the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry during a public viewing Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards spoke about Berry at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 1986 induction ceremony — Berry was the first person inducted from that inaugural class — he said Berry was the one who started it all.

Flower arrangements, including one in the shape of a guitar sent by members of the Rolling Stones, are on display during a public viewing for the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) © The Associated Press Flower arrangements, including one in the shape of a guitar sent by members of the Rolling Stones, are on display during a public viewing for the rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry Sunday, April 9, 2017, in St. Louis. The man behind such classics as "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven" died on March 18 at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

That sentiment was echoed Sunday by David Letterman's former band leader, Paul Shaffer, who spoke to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch outside the club.

"Anyone who plays rock 'n' roll was inspired by him," Shaffer said.

Berry's standard repertoire included about three-dozen songs, including "Johnny B. Goode," ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven." His songs have been covered by country, pop and rock artists such as AC/DC and Buck Owens, and his riffs live on in countless songs.

The head of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Greg Harris, said "anybody who's picked up a guitar has been influenced by him."

Well before the rise of Bob Dylan, Berry wedded social commentary to the beat and rush of popular music.

"He was singing good lyrics, and intelligent lyrics, in the '50s when people were singing, "Oh, baby, I love you so,'" John Lennon once observed.

"Everything I wrote about wasn't about me, but about the people listening," Berry once said.

___

Video journalist George Wise in St. Louis and Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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