Little Richard, King of Rock n Roll, Dead at Age 87

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Little Richard a founding father of rock n roll, is dead at age 87. 

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Little Richard, a founding father of rock & roll whose fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form, died Saturday. He was 87. The musician’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer’s death to Rolling Stone. The cause of death was bone cancer, the musician’s lawyer Bill Sobel told Rolling Stone.

Starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, Little Richard cut a series of unstoppable hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 – driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged (often gibberish) lyrics. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”

Although he never hit the Top 10 again after 1958, Little Richard’s influence was massive. The Beatles recorded several of his songs, including “Long Tall Sally,” and Paul McCartney’s singing on those tracks – and the Beatles’ own “I’m Down” – paid tribute to Little Richard’s shredded-throat style. His songs became part of the rock & roll canon, covered over the decades by everyone from the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions. “Elvis popularized [rock & roll],” Steven Van Zandt tweeted after the news broke. “Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard was the archetype.”

Read the full obituary at Rolling Stone

RIP Little Richard, who influenced so many that came after him, from The Beatles, to the Rolling Stones, Prince, Michael Jackson and many more.

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  1. Sadly, that’s another show closing from my early music history…RIP. ? And Elton John characterized the gradients in styles perfectly…Jerry Lee Lewis did the intricate piano playing almost as a throw-away with his flamboyant style making it look easy…but Little Richard as an example of Rock&Roll was explosive, inclusive and infectious in the best possible way; as they used to say , “…it has a good beat and you can dance to it”- could you ever! Punctuated with “A- wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom” – that music still requires *active listening*, ? – especially the trilogy of “Tutti Fruiti”, “Long Tall Sally”, and “Good Golly Miss Molly”! ???

  2. Little Richard was an amazing Rock and Roll pioneer whose music took us out of the Victorian age into a whole new world. He was an amazing performer! . He became my Guru in ‘56 when I got out of HS and changed my life along with so many others. May he forever RIP!

  3. I used to feel sorta envious of my Mom and Dad, they were able to enjoy all of the Swing and Big Band era from 1935 to 1946, (or 1933 to 1947, depending on what source you are going by) and grew up In an area where they could go see and dance to the famous acts…Artie Shaw, and Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers, and Glen Miller, and other iconic bands! The more they shared that music with us, the more I wished I could have been there in that decade…

    But I came to recognize that at least I had access to all that music, And their stories, and I also had a front row seat to the Next Big Thing…the beginnings of Rock&Roll! ( which has lasted much longer than a decade!)

    Even if Bill Haley and His Comets were my first introduction, it didn’t take long to find out that there were artists like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis, and etc, etc, from the 1950’s to the present day…and I keep discovering more, but it is still sad when we lose another of the early artists… ?

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