Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer Little Richard Dies at 87

| Washington Examiner

Iconic musician Little Richard, known as a pioneer of rock 'n' roll and for his flamboyant stage presence, has died at 87.

Little Richard, born in Georgia as Richard Wayne Penniman, died Saturday morning of cancer, his son, Dan Penniman, confirmed to the Wall Street Journal. Little Richard was part of the first wave of rock 'n' roll, coming to prominence during the 1950s, paving the way, and influencing the music scene.

Dressed in fanciful outfits complete with makeup, Little Richard would pound the piano on stage, merging his gospel vocals with R&B during his energetic performances. A black man, he bridged a color divide and attracted listeners of all races in a time when parts of the country were still segregated.

“When I came out, they wasn’t playing no black artists on no Top 40 stations,” he once said. The performer was known for his hits, such as "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," and "Good Golly Miss Molly."

Little Richard influenced a host of musicians in a wide array of genres. Canadian-born musician Neil Young told his biographer, “Little Richard? That’s rock ‘n’ roll,” adding that he “was great on every record.” John Lennon of Beatles fame covered two of Little Richard’s songs in a 1975 album. Pat Boone and Elvis Presley also covered his songs.

Little Richard grew up in a religious family and sang in local churches growing up. His father beat him over his sexual orientation and referred to him as “half a son.” He quit the industry in 1957 and enrolled in a theological school before returning in the 1960s with a tour in the United Kingdom, where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones opened for him. He also was in a band with legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix for a time before firing him.

After a hip surgery in 2009, Little Richard could only perform sitting down at his piano during his occasional appearances but still managed to electrify audiences.


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