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Bittersweet Little Rock And Roller

Chuck Berry's life story includes serious mistreatment of women, but fully reckoning with his legacy means also acknowledging the women and girls who made his groundbreaking rock and roll possible.
Chuck Berry on stage in London in 1965. Berry died March 18, 2017, at the age of 90. Source: David Redfern

When Chuck Berry died last week, the music-loving world rose to acknowledge his status as, in Bob Dylan's words, the Shakespeare of rock and roll. The man was 90; people were ready. Jon Pareles, chief pop critic of The New York Times, and David Remnick, editor at The New Yorker, both immediately published lengthy obituaries. Musicians ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Questlove to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones – Berry's famous protégé – rushed to pay tribute. Robert Christgau's 1976 essay declaring Berry "the greatest of the rock and rollers" recirculated on social media, as did Carl Sagan and his Cosmos co-creator Ann Druyan's 1986 letter informing Berry that a recording of "Johnny B. Goode" had been transported into space on the Voyager spacecraft. A particularly eloquent remembrance by Minneapolis City Pages editor Keith Harris declared Berry "inventor of the rock lyric, interpreter of teenage dreams."

Notably absent from this flood of panegyrics were the voices of women. In fact, the stroll through cyberspace that's now part of the mourning rituals for lost celebrities reveals that throughout

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