Little Richard the king and queen of rock and roll died at 87

Little Richard the king and queen of rock and roll died at 87
Little Richard the king and queen of rock and roll died at 87

Little Richard, the so-called king and queen of rock and roll and a major influence on everyone from David Bowie to Prince, died Saturday in Tullahoma, Tennessee. He was 87 years old.

Bill Sobel, a lawyer for Little Richard, told NPR that the cause of death was bone cancer. Rolling Stone was the first to report the death of Little Richard.

With his ferocious performance on the piano, his cranky and strong voice, his pancake makeup and his original costumes, Little Richard broke down barriers from the 1950s. It is no small feat for any artist, let alone a black man. and openly gay who grew up in the south.

It was a force of nature that outlived the many musicians it inspired, from Otis Redding to the late Prince and Michael Jackson. His teammates James Brown and Otis Redding idolized him. Jimi Hendrix, who previously played in Little Richard, said he wanted his guitar to sound like Richard's voice. The late David Bowie was 9 years old when he first saw Little Richard in a movie. "Without him, I probably wouldn't have gotten into music," Bowie told Performing Songwriter in 2003.

Bob Dylan turned to Twitter on Saturday to remember Little Richard, writing: "He was my bright star and my guiding light when I was little. It was his original spirit that motivated me to do whatever I would do. "

Little Richard was a daring showman in everything he did: movies like Down and Out In Beverly Hills, children's music and commercials. But above all, he was a pioneer of rock and roll, mixing gospel, country, vaudeville and blues in something of his own.

Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia. He was one of 12 brothers. His father was a bricklayer, smuggler and ultimately owner of a nightclub. When Richard was 19, his father was shot outside his club: Charles Penniman died on February 15, 1952.

Little Richard told NPR's Morning Edition in 1984 that Macon was "a muddy little town".

"Lots of mud and lots of cows and lots of chickens and lots of pigs," he recalls. "It was a beautiful place and I sang as much as I could on the street. Everyone was shouting", shut up! Shut up! You make too much noise! "But I sang 'Tutti Frutti' even then. And I played 'Lucille' on the piano at the time."

To develop his style, Little Richard borrowed certain things from the artists he admired, such as a singer and pianist named Esquerita. Esquerita was openly gay and wore noisy makeup and clothes. He also taught Little Richard to play the piano.

Then there was gospel singer Marion Williams, whom Little Richard said had his signature.

Charles White, author of an authoritative biography called The Life and Times of Little Richard, described his voice as "a firestorm over an arctic desert. I mean, all the great rock singers have Tried to copy his voice. "

In the 1950s, the music industry, like many others in the United States, was segregated.

"At the time, black records were considered career records," said Little Richard in the morning edition. "And black records weren't playing on white stations at the time."

White artists like Pat Boone have often managed to cover the songs of Little Richard. And Little Richard claimed that he had not seen "a penny" of some of these blankets.

"I have been playing for years and they will not let me in," he said. "I keep coming back, trying again. I have nothing. As I was sliding, they were sliding and hiding, putting my money in unknown banks."

In the end, Little Richard made a lot of money from his recordings, his films and his television appearances. He has traveled the world. He was, in many ways, a living icon who was respected and ridiculed.

Little Richard was an extreme man: a wild pop star and a deeply religious person known for taking his Bible everywhere and often quoting it. There have been periods in his career when he left show business entirely to preach. He often said that he wanted to be a minister, like other members of his family.

The 1970s were difficult for Little Richard. He drank and used drugs daily, a habit that cost him hundreds of dollars a day.

"I started to fall. I started to sink," he told NPR. "I just started to get out of it. I didn't want to make my commitments. I wanted nothing more than a warm party."

His younger brother died at that time and two of his friends were killed.

"And then I said," Well, God is trying to tell me something. "Then the idea came to me:" What good will a man do if he wins the whole world and loses his soul? "Or" What will it give him? a man to God in exchange for a soul? And I decided that I would give my life to God. "

It took someone like Little Richard, a fearless artist and a talented musician, to advance American music. He liked to remind people that he was the "architect" of rock and roll. He did not build music alone, but was one of his most original designers.

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