Chuck Berry was honored Tuesday as a laureate of the 2014 Polar Music Prize, although the 87-year-old rock 'n' roll pioneer could not attend the ceremony because of illness. Veteran British rocker Dave Edmunds was on hand to accept the honor from Sweden's King Carl XVI at the event, which took place at Stockholm's Concert Hall.
While at the podium, Edmunds read a speech Berry wrote that said, "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. 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."
In addition, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards sent a video homage in which he discussed how much Berry influenced and inspired him.
"Chuck Berry, he just leapt out of the radio at me. I ate him basically, I mean I breathed him," said Richards. "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."
In choosing Berry for the award, Polar Music Prize officials acknowledged him as "the rock 'n' roll pioneer who turned the electric guitar into the main instrument of rock music," while adding that "[e]very riff and solo played by rock guitarists over the last 60 years contains DNA that can be traced right back to Chuck Berry."
The Polar Music Prize, founded in 1989 by late ABBA manager and lyricist Stig "Stikkan" Anderson, is considered the musical equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Past recipients include Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
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