Little Richard – often referred to as the founding father of rock’n’roll – has died, aged 87.
Richard was renowned for his flamboyant dress sense, wild stage antics and unabashed ‘star’ ego. Still, he managed to charm the pants off critics and public alike.
The cause of Richard’s death was bone cancer, according to his lawyer.
“If you love anything about the flamboyance of rock’n’roll, you have Little Richard to thank. To be able to be [so] uninhibited back then, you had to have [had] a lot of not-give-a-fuck.”
Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, Richard was one of 12 children growing up around uncles who were all preachers. As a child he sang at the local church, though this wasn’t approved by his father, ‘Bud’, who accused his song of being gay. The strain between father and son, saw Richard leave home at 13 and move in with a white family in Macon, Georgia, and making friends with fellow music fan, Otis Redding.
Little Richard first enjoyed chart success with his single Tutti Frutti which went top 10 in 1956. This was followed by a string of infectious rock songs that included Long Tall Sally, Lucille, Good Golly Miss Molly and Bama Lama, Bama Loo. These songs alone set him up as the king of alliteration in song titles and lyrics.
Little Richard has been cited as a major influence on so many artists after him, from Elvis Presley to the Beatles, Elton John to David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury to, hell, even Harry Styles.
Says Dan Auerbach, singer-songwriter of the Black Keys, “If you love anything about the flamboyance of rock’n’roll, you have Little Richard to thank. Where would rock’n’roll be without flamboyance? He was the first. To be able to be [so] uninhibited back then, you had to have [had] a lot of not-give-a-fuck.”
Little Richard was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (1986). While not being prolific in music-making in the second half of his life, he has regularly been referenced in interviews and award shows, constantly referred to by other artists, and always respected and admired.
Vale a major rock legend.