One of the flamboyant pioneers of the rock & roll genre, Little Richard, has passed away at 87 years of age.
Little Richard’s son Danny Jones Penniman confirmed his father’s death to Rolling Stone overnight, with his lawyer, Bill Sobel, revealing that the inspirational star had died of bone cancer. His passing followed years of poor health, suffering a stroke and a heart attack in recent times, as well as ongoing hip problems.
“He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say ‘I’m not well,” added Richards’ agent Dick Alen.
Little Richard, real name Richard Penniman, released a series of genre-defining hits during the ’50s, including rock & roll staples ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Rip It Up’ (all in 1956). He followed those hits up with ‘Lucille’ and ‘Golly Golly Miss Molly’.
His flamboyant performing style was defined by wearing mascara and huge amounts of hair spray while sitting at his piano, playing with elements of drag all the while. As The Guardian reports, he was also self-amittedly involved in voyeurism, and twice arrested for lewd conduct.
Little Richard then suddenly left showbusiness in 1957 to become a minister and study theology, but was never ordained, eventually making a musical comeback in 1963 as gospel records skyrocketed in popularity. In the ’60s, he famously advised The Beatles on how to perform his songs, and taught Paul McCartney how to replicate his distinctive vocal mannerisms.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and performed at his induction ceremony.
Tributes have already poured in for the trailblazing rock & roll star, who was considered by many to be one of the greatest songwriters and musicians of all time.
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger revealed that Richards “was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same electronic energy when you play it as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50’s.”
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) May 9, 2020
“So sad to hear that my old friend Little Richard has passed,” said Keith Richards. “There will never be another. He was the true spirit of Rock & Roll”
So sad to hear that my old friend Little Richard has passed. There will never be another!!! He was the true spirit of Rock’n Roll! pic.twitter.com/yU1EJmjejU
— Keith Richards (@officialKeef) May 9, 2020
“He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy,” said Bob Dylan. “His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do.”
I just heard the news about Little Richard and I’m so grieved. He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy. His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do.
— Bob Dylan (@bobdylan) May 9, 2020
“RIP Little Richard – the architect of rock ‘n’ roll, an extremely cool guy and a formidable Wheel of Fortune contestant,” tweeted Weird Al Yankovic.
“True rock n roll royalty. An original. A legend. Thank you for everything,” added Cindi Lauper.
Countless other artists including Brian Wilson, Nils Lofgre, Billy Idol, Chance The Rapper, Carole King, Jody Watley, Quincy Jones, and Ringo Star all weighed in with tributes of their own as well.