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Chuck Berry

that President Lincoln was likely to enact laws that would put an end to slavery. In a short time, the young slave and Cellie would be free. The couple moved to Ohio and married. They returned to Kentucky, but later fled to Missouri after drunken white men tried to rape Cellie. Living in a one-room cabin, they raised four children. The youngest, Lucinda, was the mother of Chuck Berry’s father, Henry William Berry, born in 1895. Before he was even born, the rock & roll singer’s history had

26 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

RollingStone.com

already moved between complex worlds of white violence and white benevolence, between black bondage and black hope. In 1919, Henry William Berry was living in St. Louis when he married Martha Bell Banks. “My childhood was not so good,” the singer once said in an uncharacteristically candid moment. “My parents were getting divorced.” That divorce never materialized, but the couple certainly had different ambitions for their family. Martha had studied to become a schoolteacher,

but Henry effectively discouraged her from pursuing the profession by having a large family. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, the fourth of six siblings, was born October 18th, 1926. By then, Henry was working as a carpenter, as he would for the rest of his life. The family sang at the Antioch Baptist Church, and at home they heard country music on the radio, Gene Autry and Bill Monroe. Berry’s parents settled the family into the area known as the Ville, where work-

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1926-2017

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