Richard Wayne “Little Richard” Penniman passed away. Known for his wild vocals, original personality and unbridled enthusiasm on stage, the musician was 87.
Rolling stone reported that Little Richard died the morning of May 9, citing confirmation from his son Danny Jones Penniman. No cause of death has been specified.
Little Richard’s music career spanned more than 60 years. Born December 5, 1932, he found his passion for music in his native Macon, Georgia, where he sang gospel and played the piano. When he discovered R&B, the artist changed from a talented choirboy and became the more eccentric vaudeville-inspired artist who gained fame worldwide.
At the age of 22, Little Richard broke into the music scene with three hits that would make him sacred as one of the greats in rock and roll. “Tutti Frutti” from November 1955, followed by “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly, Miss MollyRemain one of the earliest and most exemplary modern standards in the rock genre in 1956. These songs – and many others in his catalog – are inextricably linked to Little Richard’s performance, with his electrified vocals (interrupted by howling and wailing, impossible to match) and his personal style.
Both aspects of Little Richard’s persona had different influences on rock and roll, as artists borrowed his vocal vibrations and daring fashion to cultivate the image of rock as flashier than pop, more unpredictable than soul.
“When it comes to flaming androgyny, outrageous costume and out of control libido, a contemporary pop rebel like Prince looks like little potatoes compared to Little Richard, the original wild man of rock ‘n roll,” music critic Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times in 1984. “And in his mirrored suits, sky-high pompadour and heavy make-up, the singer, like everyone else, followed the tradition of the rock star as a hallowed freak.”
Little Richard sometimes withdrew from his rock image, retreating toward the gospel to regain his Christian roots. His complicated relationship with both his religion and sexuality (he went from declaring homosexuality to sin, calling himself openly homosexual, identifying himself as “omnisexual” and back throughout his life) during the last half of his career. He also suffered from serious health problems in his old age.
But what never changed was his affection for putting on a dazzling, energetic show – and his place in rock and roll history. Bee the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in 1986 the great Robert Flack once said of “Little” Richard Penniman:
Little Richard’s music has made such a strong impression on us all. We dance to it, we hum with it and we are all influenced by it. Some of us have even been brave enough to try singing his songs. … He is very special to me. He is very special to all of us. ‘
Meanwhile, fellow artists and fans have turned to Twitter to offer their kind words and memories to one of the greats.
Rest in peace with one of the true makers of rock and roll. This is the commercial I directed with Little Richard and Michael Jordan, 1991. pic.twitter.com/51bEV1eYKB
– Spike Lee (@SpikeLeeJoint) May 9, 2020
#LittleRichard was a genius, pure and simple. He paved the way for (code because he got scammed by) so many artists. Check out his YouTube appearances to see what I mean. I met him on “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” where he was hilarious. What an inheritance. God bless you, Richard. https://t.co/Mz9UPzwYth
– bettemidler (@BetteMidler) May 9, 2020
James Brown got his big break as a Little Richard impersonator. Hendrix started playing the guitar in Little Richard’s band. The Beatles formed around his work. Bob Dylan and Freddie Mercury started his music. It is impossible to exaggerate Little Richard’s influence.
– Anil Dash (@anildash) May 9, 2020
Mel: Babe, Little Richard died.
Kel: You mean Little Richard LIVED! * set a record *
Just what I needed ❤️
– Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) May 9, 2020