Rock and Roll King and one of the most influential musicians the world has ever seen, Little Richard, has died aged 87.
The music legend’s son Danny Penniman confirmed the sad news to Rolling Stone. His cause of death has yet to be confirmed. Known as the founding father of rock and roll, Little Richard shot to fame with a string of classic hits, including his debut single Tutti Frutti in 1956.
This track was followed by Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, Lucille and Good Golly Miss Molly, all which came in the space of two years. Despite these huge hits, the gender-bending star never hit the top 10 again after 1958.
Little Richard was seen as one of the most influential artists in the business, with the star being one of the first nominees inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. James Brown, Otis Redding and Michael Jackson all admitted to being heavily inspied by the star, while Mick Jagger called Richard his introduction to R’n’B and ‘my first idol’. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were also big fans, with his recordings inspiring I’m Down; The Beatles also recorded Long Tall Sally. Other artists to cover Richard’s music include Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Everly Brothers.
David Bowie said he ‘heard God’ upon listening to Tutti Frutti, while Elton John was inspired to become a ‘rock and roll piano player’ after opening for Richard as Reginald Dwight in his band Bluesology.
While Richard never won a Grammy, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, while three of his songs – Tutti Frutti, Lucille and Long Tall Sally – were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Other honours bestowed upon him include Tutti Frutti being included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2010, and receiving a Rhapsody & Rhythm Award from the National Museum of African American Music for changing American culture significantly and helping to bring an end to the racial divide on the charts in the 50s.
Real name Richard Wayne Penniman, the singer was known for his shouted vocals and frenetic piano playing, but also his flamboyant on-stage style, often wearing capes and sequins during concerts. In 1957, Richard shocked the music world when he announced he was joining the ministry.
After a number of years working on gospel music, he returned to the ‘secular’ world with his comeback album Little Richard Is Back, which wasn’t a success due to the lack of promotion.
After a dip in success and cooperation with his label, Richard began booking shows in Vegas and at rock festivals – fostering an even more flamboyant look – and this led to him becoming a major celebrity again. Richard continued to perform through his 70s, and in 2013, told Rolling Stone he would be retiring, saying: ‘I am done, in a sense, because I don’t feel like doing anything right now.’ His final concert came in Tennessee in August 2014.
In 2017, the star made headlines with a lengthy television interview for the Christian Three Angels Broadcasting Network, on which he discussed his faith, wearing no make-up and wearing a coat and tie.
In the interview, he denounced sexuality, two decades after coming out. Richard had told Penthouse in 1995 that he was ‘gay all my life’, despite previously saying homosexuals were ‘sick’, but on the Three
Angels Network, he said: ‘‘Anybody come in showbusiness, they’re going to say you’re gay. Are you straight? Are you a homosexual something? They’re going to say it. ‘But God, Jesus, he made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live.
Richard added: ‘I’m a sinner, but we all have sinned.