Little Richard : Rock 'n' Roll Pioneer Dies

Pioneering rock 'n' roll singer Little Richard died at the age of 87, the musician's family confirmed.

Little Richard's successes included Good Golly Miss Molly, who reached the British charts in 1958. The Beatles, Elton John, and Elvis all pointed to him as influence.

The singer, born in Georgia as Richard Wayne Penniman, was among the first inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

His other popular songs include Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally.

Obituary: Little Richard

The star, who sold more than 30 million records worldwide, was known for his exuberant performances, shrieks, raspy voice and flamboyant outfits. He had his biggest hits in the 1950s.

Paying tribute after news of his death emerged, Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers said it was "the loss of a true giant".

Richard's bass guitarist, Charles Glenn, told celebrity news website TMZ the singer had been ill for two months. He said Richard died at his Tennessee home, with his brother, sister and son beside him.

Little Richard was one of 12 children, and said he had started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings.

"I was the biggest head of all, and I still have the biggest head," he told BBC Radio 4 in 2008.

"I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention."

His music was embraced by black and white fans at a time when parts of the U.S. were still segregated, and the concerts had a rope up the center of the auditorium to divide people by color.

An all-round force of nature

By Ian Youngs, BBC Arts and Entertainment Reporter

An electric performer, a flamboyant persona, a shrieking vocalist, an all-round force of nature - popular music hadn't seen the like of Little Richard before he emerged from New Orleans in the mid-1950s.

If there had been no Little Richard, a key part of DNA would have been missing from acts like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix - all of whom idolised him.

With the likes of Chuck Berry and Elvis, he was one of the handful of US acts who concocted the primordial soup of blues, R&B and gospel that led to the evolution of rock 'n' roll in the 60s.

Standing at his piano with his bouffant hair and letting rip with full-throated voice on songs like Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Lucille and Good Golly Miss Molly, he was a gust of fresh air after a strait-laced post-war age.

Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, on 5 December 1932. Growing up in the southern US state, he absorbed the rhythms of gospel music and the influences of New Orleans, blending them into his own piano-laden extravaganzas.

His father was a preacher who also ran a nightclub, and his mother was a devout Baptist.

"I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey," he told Rolling Stone in 1970.

The singer left home in his teens after disagreements with his father - who initially didn't support his music.

"My daddy wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay," the showman later said.

Though openly homosexual for many years, Richard also had relationships with women. He married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical, and later adopted a son.

His commitment to depravity extended to drugs, boozing and sex parties - to which he would take his Bible.

Richard's complex attitude to his identity indicated that he had never been accepted as a homosexual icon. Later in life, he was a born-again Christian and renounced adultery, calling it a fleeting decision he had made.

The Rolling Stones, who opened shows for him, spoke reverently of his on-stage prowess. "Little Richard drove the whole house into a complete frenzy," Mick Jagger once said. "There is no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience."

Richard himself felt his influence was never acknowledged as it should have been, and blamed the deep racial prejudice in America at the height of his career.

But he spoke proudly of his impact in crossing divides.

"I've always thought that rock 'n' roll brought the races together," the singer once told an interviewer. "Although I was black, the fans didn't care. I used to feel good about that."

Source: BBC


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