Watch KISS’ Gene Simmons Deliver Tearful Tribute at Chuck Berry’s Memorial Service
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Earlier this year, the rock world was dealt a crushing blow with the passing of the iconic Chuck Berry, who laid out the blueprint for rock ‘n’ roll with his loud, frenetic guitar playing. He was laid to rest at a memorial service held in St. Louis, Mo. yesterday (April 9) at the Pageant Concert Hall and Nightclub. Among those in attendance was KISS‘ Gene Simmons, who delivered a truly emotional tribute.
With sunglasses masking the self-admitted tears, Simmons took the podium, stating he had not planned on speaking at the event, but was asked to say a few words in remembrance on the rock great. Taking a moment to collect himself as he became emotional, the KISS legend detailed the first time he heard Berry’s music.
After moving from Israel to America in 1958, Simmons was overwhelmed when he turned on the radio and was literally shaken to his core, consumed by the energy of Berry’s music, moving his body like never before. Going on to stress the cultural impact the rocker had in the country, Simmons recalled how Berry and other icons like Fats Domino and Little Richard were all deemed “race music” due to the color of their skin and, in turn, did not receive significant radio play.
“Look at what Chuck Berry and his music has done. I see white faces in the audience. When Chuck first started that would never have happened. He broke down the barriers, made all kinds of peoples’ hearts and minds open up to the idea that we all belong to the same people,” Simmons continued.
The bassist also posted a tribute on the KISS Facebook page (seen below), stating, “Sad but honored to have been invited to the Chuck Berry Memorial event. The open casket was on view, but I couldn’t bear looking. It would break my heart. For those of you too young to know, Chuck Berry was one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll and the architect of rock guitar playing. Without Chuck Berry, you wouldn’t have had The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and many more.”
Berry passed away on March 18 due to natural causes at the age of 90. The rocker will posthumously release CHUCK, his first solo record since 1979’s Rock It, on June 16. The album features guests appearances by Tom Morello, Gary Clark Jr., Nathaniel Rateliff and Chuck’s grandson Charles Berry III.
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