Rock and roll Hall of Fame pianist Johnnie Johnson died today at the age of 80 in a St. Louis hospital according to the Associated Press. The cause of death is unknown according to information Johnson’s publicist Margo Lewis provided to the AP.
Johnson is best known for his collaborations with Chuck Berry but he also performed with other icons such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley. Johnson also appeared on Buddy Guy’s album “Slippin’ In.” Guy was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2005 while Johnson entered into the Hall of Fame in 2002 in the “sideman” category.
Johnson and Berry first worked together in 1952 and partnered on countless hits until they parted ways in the 1970s. Among these hits are some of the most influential and famous songs in rock and roll history such as “Johnny B. Goode.” While Berry’s guitar might be the most famous and oft-imitated sound of those early records, Johnson’s piano work was a vital part of the Chuck Berry sound.
Berry and Johnson’s parting was acrimonious as Johnson tried unsuccessfully to sue Berry seeking royalties and credits as a co-writer on more than 50 songs. The case was dismissed when a judge ruled too much time had passed since the songs were first written.
Johnson is survived by his wife and children.