Chuck Berry was honored with Sweden’s 2014 Polar Music Prize, “the world’s most prestigious music accolade,” in a ceremony at Stockholm’s Concert Hall. While members of the Swedish Royal Family were in attendance, Berry was unable to appear at the ceremony due to illness. However, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote an acceptance speech that was delivered by musician and rock revivalist Dave Edmunds. The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards also recorded a video message congratulating the influential “Johnny B. Goode” guitarist.
“Unfortunately I am unable to travel, but my heart is in Sweden. I want to thank the King and the Royal Family for awarding me the Polar Prize,” Berry wrote. “I understand what a great honor it is to be a recipient. I am sorry that I am unable to travel and receive this personally.” Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Patti Smith and few other rock legends have been named Laureates of the Polar Music Prize in years past.
“Chuck Berry, he just leapt out of the radio at me,” Richards said in a video message, below. “I ate him, basically. I mean, I breathed him. It wasn’t just food, he was the air I breathed for many years when I was learning guitar and trying to figure out how you could be such an all-rounder. Such a great voice, such a great player and also such a great showman, you know? It was all in one package, so basically if I listened to Chuck Berry, I was full for the day. Chuck, congratulations Chuck! And also congratulations to Sweden for recognizing Chuck Berry for what he is.”
The Rolling Stones covered a handful of Berry songs early in their career: “Come On” was the band’s debut single, “Around and Around” featured on their 1964 Five by Five EP, and “Little Queenie” and “Carol” both appeared on the 1970 live album Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
Health problems have slowed the once-prolific Berry in recent years, but the 87-year-old rocker did travel to Cleveland to receive the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Award in October 2012.