Little Richard has died at 87.
One of the founding fathers of rock and roll has died.
Little Richard is dead at 87.
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in 1932, Little Richard, with his flamboyant style, is being hailed for breaking musical barriers.
The pianist and singer is known for such hits as Tutti Frutti, Good Golly Miss Molly and Long Tall Sally.
The cause of death has not been released.
Richard sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and his influence on other musicians was equally staggering, from the Beatles and Otis Redding to Creedence Clearwater Revival and David Bowie. In his personal life, he wavered between raunch and religion, alternately embracing the Good Book and outrageous behaviour.
“Little Richard? That’s rock ‘n’ roll,” Neil Young, who heard Richard’s riffs on the radio in Canada, told biographer Jimmy McDonough. “Little Richard was great on every record.”
It was 1956 when his classic “Tutti Frutti” landed like a hand grenade in the Top 40, exploding from radios and off turntables across the country. It was highlighted by Richard’s memorable call of “wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom.”
More than 40 years after the latter charted, Bruce Springsteen was still performing “Good Golly Miss Molly” live.
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney imitated Richard’s signature yelps — perhaps most notably in the “Wooooo!” from the hit “She Loves You.” Ex-bandmate John Lennon covered Richard’s “Rip It Up” and “Ready Teddy” on the 1975 “Rock and Roll” album.
When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in 1986, he was among the charter members with Elvis Presley, Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke and others.
Few were quicker to acknowledge Little Richard’s seminal role than Richard himself. The flamboyant singer claimed he paved the way for Elvis, provided Mick Jagger with his stage moves and conducted vocal lessons for McCartney.
“I am the architect of rock ‘n’ roll!” Little Richard crowed at the 1988 Grammy Awards as the crowd rose in a standing ovation. “I am the originator!”
The family was religious, and Richard sang in local churches with a group called the Tiny Tots. The tug-of-war between his upbringing and rock ‘n’ roll excess tormented Penniman throughout his career.
Penniman was performing with bands by the age of 14, but there were problems at home over his sexual orientation. His father beat the boy and derided him as “half a son.”
Richard left home to join a minstrel show run by a man known as Sugarloaf Sam, occasionally appearing in drag.
In late 1955, Little Richard recorded the bawdy “Tutti Frutti,” with lyrics that were sanitized by a New Orleans songwriter. It went on to sell 1 million records over the next year.
When Little Richard’s hit was banned by many white-owned radio stations, white performers like Pat Boone and Elvis Presley did cover versions that topped the charts.
Little Richard went Hollywood with an appearance in “Don’t Knock the Rock.” But his wild lifestyle remained at odds with his faith, and a conflicted Richard quit the business in 1957 to enrol in a theological school and get married.
Richard remained on the charts when his label released previously recorded material. And he recorded a gospel record, returning to his roots.
A 1962 arrest for a homosexual encounter in a bus station restroom led to his divorce and return to performing.
– with files from the Canadian Press