Little Richard, one of the black pioneers of rock n’ roll, has passed away. His son, Danny Jones Penniman, told Rolling Stone that his father has died and that his death is currently unknown.
Little Richard, rose to fame in 1956 with his hit “Tutti Frutti” and throughout the rest of the ’50’s he followed with songs like “Lucille,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” He kept audiences mesmerized with his animated onstage antics as he played the piano and belted rhythmic lyrics with exuberance.
Little Richard was born Richard Penniman on December 5th, 1932 in Macon, GA. He always had a love for music and a flamboyant spirit and his father wasn’t a fan of it. At 13, he left home and moved in with a white family and continued to fall in love with R&B, blues and rock thanks to his childhood friend Otis Redding, who also became a successful R&B singer. He signed to RCA Records in 1951 but after releasing his single “Little Richard’s Boogie,” his career was gainless for a few years. He continued to work his then job as a dishwasher at a Greyhound bus station and wrote songs that would later jumpstart his historic career. After sending demo of “Tutti Frutti” to Specialty Records in 1955, his career took off. After the release of “Tutti Frutti,” white singer Pat Boone blatantly remade the song and his ripoff became a hit with white audiences. To keep Boone from copying him, he made sure his following single, “Long Tall Sally” had a faster pace so he couldn’t keep up. He took a break from R&B in 1957 and enrolled at Alabama Bible School and even released a gospel album, God Is Real. He returned to his roots in 1964.
Besides his music, Little Richard’s sexuality was also a hot topic during his career due to his colorful costumes, wearing makeup and overall sassy persona. In the 1990’s he revealed that he has been gay the entire time but during an interview in the ’80’s he called homosexuality “contagious” and added that it is “not something you’re born with.” In 2017, he surprisingly shunned sexuality even though he had declared himself “omnisexual” at one point prior.
“God, Jesus, He made men, men, he made women, women, you know?,” he told Three Angels Broadcasting Group. And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God.”
Little Richard had settled in Nashville, TN in his later years.
Our condolences go out to his family.