Chuck Berry Wins Prestigious Polar Music Prize

Rock pioneer joins past winners Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen

May 8, 2014 3:20 PM ET
Chuck Berry Polar Music Prize
Chuck Berry
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Chuck Berry will be honored with the Polar Music Prize this year at a ceremony in Stockholm in late August. The rock pioneer, whose hits "Johnny B. Goode," "Maybelline" and "Roll Over Beethoven," among others, defined guitar playing for a generation, will receive £100,000 (a little more than $169,600) at the ceremony, which Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf will attend, the U.K.'s Telegraph reports. The award was founded by late Abba manager, lyricist and publisher Stig Anderson, who wanted it to "break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music." As such, 2014's other Polar recipient is opera and theater director Peter Sellars.

100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke on Chuck Berry

Past recipients have included Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, BB King, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen and Quincy Jones, among others. Paul McCartney was the first Polar Music Prize recipient in 1992; the other recipient in its inaugural year was the Baltic States, in honor of the region's national music culture. "The difference with this one for me is that I've presumably been chosen from everyone in the world," McCartney said at the ceremony. "You can't knock that, that's a high honor. They could have chosen all sorts of other people, I can think of a few people who you could choose for a music honor like this."

Part of Berry's Polar Music Award citation reads, "Every riff and solo played by rock guitarists over the last 60 years contains DNA that can be traced right back to Chuck Berry. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and a million other groups began to learn their craft by playing Chuck Berry songs."

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