Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, has passed away. He was 87.
Many of us will be too young to know, he was an influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades, he was nicknamed “The Innovator”, “The Originator”, and “The Architect of Rock and Roll”.
Known for his frenetic piano solos, his screeching vocals, Little Richard’s music was among the most influential ever created - inspiring acts as diverse as Prince, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, right up to modern hip-hop and soul.
Little Richard was also one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and had his song ‘Tutti Frutti’ added to the US National Library of Congress. Almost constantly touring since the ’60s, Little Richard continued to perform right up to his eighties, and had only retired from live performances six years ago in 2014.
Little Richard was perhaps one of the first crossover black artists, reaching audiences of all races. His music and concerts broke the color line, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. His contemporaries, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, all recorded covers of his works.
Little Richard had a colourful personal life, and the question of his sexuality was one that regularly changed through the years. He had previously identified as homosexual, bisexual, before he became a religious convert and denounced homosexuality as going against “the way God wants you to live.”
Little Richard’s life was fictionalised in many movies, most recently in ‘Get On Up‘, which followed the life and career of James Brown and how he was influenced by Little Richard among others. His music also appeared in countless movies, most famously in 1987’s ‘Predator‘ with the song, ‘Long Tall Sally’.