Music icon Little Richard has passed away. The news was confirmed by his son Danny to RollingStone.com
Born Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard’s career spanned seven decades, starting in 1947 as a teenager. He signed his first record deal in 1951, After numerous regional hits, Richard’s big break came in 1955 when the song “Tutti Frutti” made him a household name. Richard would follow up “Tutti Frutti with “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up.” “Lucille” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” would come soon after. Little Richard’s Gender-bending, flamboyant style would become one of his calling cards.
During a time of segregation, Little Richard was one of the first black crossover artists. His shows were mostly integrated. His high-energy piano playing style would go to set the tone which would become his calling card. Legends including James Brown would credit Little Richard and his band The Upsetters for introducing “funk in the rock beat” which you lead to 1950’s rock and roll and 1960s Funk.
Richard left secular music in 1957 to become an ordained minister. In 1959, he released a gospel album entitled “God Is Real.” He returned to secular music in 1964. While he didn’t achieve the chart success that he obtained in the 1950s, his songs and impact remained in pop culture for our lifetime.
His music would be covered by some of his white contemporaries such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly, which would become hits as well.
Richard was among the inaugural group of nominees inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy.
Little Richard was 87 years old.
1. Ron Galella Archive – File PhotosSource:Getty
Singer Little Richard attending ‘BMI Tribute to Michael Jackson’ on May 8, 1990 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images) vertical,arts culture and entertainment,attending,usa,music,singer,california,michael jackson,regent beverly wilshire hotel,beverly hills – california,little richard
2. Little RichardSource:Getty
Little Richard, Belgium Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Festival, Peer, Belgium, 21 July 1997. (Photo by Gie Knaeps/Getty Images) color image,photography,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,music,1990-1999,belgium,little richard
3. Fifth Annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation AwardsSource:Getty
NEW YORK CITY – MARCH 2: Producers Jimmy Jam and Terrence Lewis and singer Little Richard attend Fifth Annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation Awards on March 2, 1994 at Roseland Ballroom in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images) arts culture and entertainment,attending,horizontal,usa,new york city,music,singer,1990-1999,award,annual event,producer,ballroom,jimmy jam,roseland ballroom,little richard
4. Singer Little RichardSource:Getty
Little Richard, the American rock and roll singer. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images) vertical,photography,celebrities,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,adult,portrait,singer,rock music,archival,singing,performing arts event,1960-1969,little richard
5. Little Richard SingsSource:Getty
(Original Caption) His is a job of love… Little Richard on stage. Little Richard, the American rock and roll singer, on stage at Wembley stadium in London. Really, he made a very quiet entrance to the press conference held on the hallowed turf at the mighty Wembley stadium. He just sauntered out onto the pitch accompanied by the flamboyant elaborately dressed hero of the rock ‘n’ roll era of the sixties. He did have his arm around the star, the man who claimed to hold the title of “King”, but Ken really wasn’t working all that hard. The job of valet come body guard is not all that strenuous when your obvious idol is surrounded by clicking cameras and inquiring journalists. After all, they aren’t going to harm the guy! You can relax whilst he tells them he is great, in fact he claims to be the greatest and he claims to be young and beautiful. You beleieve that, after all y (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images) vertical,microphone,photography,celebrities,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,adult,concert,performance,singer,1970-1979,archival,stadium,occupation,singing,performing arts event,wig,beauty product,cross dressing,wembley stadium,love – emotion,little richard
6. Little RichardSource:Getty
Little Richard Promoting his book at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, October 4, 1984. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images) photography,celebrities,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,usa,waist up,smiling,singer,rock music,african ethnicity,1980-1989,archival,illinois,chicago – illinois,book,ritz carlton hotel,piano,little richard
7. Little Richard In LondonSource:Getty
LONDON – NOVEMBER 1966: American singer, songwriter, actor and recording artist Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard, in London, England, November 1966. (Photo by Jeff Hochberg/Getty Images) vertical,microphone,color image,photography,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,musician,waist up,actor,music,uk,england,london – england,singer,rock music,archival,artist,songwriter,1960-1969,r&b,soul music,piano,rock musician,little richard,androgynous
8. Little Richard…Source:Getty
NEW YORK – CIRCA 1985: Little Richard circa 1985 in New York. (Photo by Images/Getty Images) color image,photography,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,usa,waist up,1980-1989,archival,little richard
9. Little RichardSource:Getty
American recording artist, singer and musician Little Richard performing live, UK, 27th June 1975. (Photo by Angela Deane-Drummond/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) photography,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,musician,adult,adults only,music,uk,headshot,performance,singer,one man only,1970-1979,black and white,archival,artist,little richard,record – analog audio
10. Little RichardSource:Getty
American singer and musician Little Richard seated at a piano on a television show in London circa 1966. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns) photography,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,musician,adult,adults only,actor,music,uk,england,london – england,television show,singer,one man only,sitting,black and white,archival,artist,songwriter,1960-1969,piano,little richard