Songs you listened to avidly as a teenager continue to bring you great pleasure over the years. I became fascinated by American pop music at first and when I eventually reached what I would say is its "source"--Chuck Berry--I was totally hooked.

I might have soon given up trying to imitate his performance, but his lyrics struck a chord with me on a deep level. In his lilting voice, he sang of his favorite car, a teacher he resented, lost love, running away from home, Jim Crow (racial segregation laws) and so on.

I sensed the angst of American teenagers beneath the jaunty rhythm.

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in 1926, he was a bit of a troublemaker in his teen years, repeatedly shoplifting and even carrying out robberies. He ran away from home with friends. They stole a car and were arrested.

Berry spent several years in a reformatory for young men, where he formed a gospel chorus group. A few years after his release, he started performing professionally.

He was in his late 20s when he debuted nationwide with "Maybellene," a song in which he recalled his high school days. His fame then became firmly established with numbers such as "Johnny B. Goode" and "Roll Over Beethoven."

Berry later became embroiled in a tax evasion scandal, but his music had inspired The Beatles and other artists, setting goals for them to aim for and attempt to transcend.

Berry died March 18 at his home in Missouri. He was 90.

His new album, titled "Chuck," was scheduled for release in June. I am awed by his unflagging creativity.

Upon hearing of his demise, I reread some of his lyrics for the first time in many years.

A passage from "Johnny B. Goode" goes: "... Johnny B. Goode/ Who never ever learned to read or write so well/ But he could play the guitar just like ringing a bell."

And from "Roll Over Beethoven": "Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news."

Was it his teenage recklessness that drove Berry throughout his life? Or perhaps I should call it his healthy spirit of rebellion against authority.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 21

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.