Little Richard passes away at 87

Little Richard real name Richard Wayne Penniman was born Dec. 5, 1932, he was one of rock and roll’s founding fathers who Broke Musical Barriers. The icon first burst onto the music scene in the 1950’s with hits like “Tutti Frutti,” in 1956, Little Richard had a series of unstoppable hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 driven by his over the top flamboyant personality, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged lyrics he captured the imagination of the country, and world. Had there been no Little Richard opening the doors he did many would not have made it.

The singer claimed to be the ‘architect of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ while receiving a standing ovation at the 1988 Grammy Awards. ‘I am the originator!’ he added. Music icons including Rolling Stone front man Mick Jagger, Sir Elton John and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page were among the stars who paid tribute on Saturday. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.” Elton also added “Little Richard as ‘without doubt… my biggest influence’, adding: ‘Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point.’

Sir Mick said he had ‘contributed so much to popular music’, adding that he would ‘watch his moves’ to learn from them while they toured together. Little Richard was ‘the biggest inspiration of my early teens’ and his music still has ‘the same raw electric energy when you play it now as when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50s’, he added.

Although he never hit the top 10 again after 1958, Little Richard’s influence was massive. The Beatles recorded several of his songs, including “Long Tall Sally,” and Paul McCartney’s singing on those tracks
and the Beatles’ own “I’m Down” paid tribute to Little Richard’s shredded-throat style. His songs became part of the rock and roll canon, covered over the decades by everyone from the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions. “Elvis popularized [rock and roll],” Steven Van Zandt tweeted after the news broke. “Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard was the archetype.”

Little Richard’s stage persona with his pompadours, androgynous makeup and glass-bead shirts set the standard for rock and roll showmanship; Prince, to cite one obvious example, owed a sizable debt to the musician. “Prince is the Little Richard of his generation,” Richard told Joan Rivers in 1989 before looking at the camera and addressing Prince. “I was wearing purple before you was wearing it!”

The musician’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer’s death to Rolling Stone, adding that the cause of death was bone cancer.

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