Little Richard, one of the founding fathers of rock and roll, died Saturday. Little Richard was 87, and had been battling a long list of health ailments. But early reports suggest that he may also have contracted the COVID 19 coronavirus.
The musician’s son, Danny Penniman, confirmed Little Richard's death to Rolling Stone yesterday. Officially, he said that his father's cause of death is "unknown".
Little Richard burst onto the music scene in 1956, with his song “Tutti Frutti." And he followed it up with a series of hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958.
Although he never hit the top 10 again after 1958, Little Richard’s influence on music was unrivaled.
According to Rolling Stone, "Starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, Little Richard cut a series of unstoppable hits – “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 – driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged (often gibberish) lyrics. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”
The Beatles re-recorded several of Little Richard's songs, including “Long Tall Sally,” and Paul McCartney’s singing on those tracks – and the Beatles’ own “I’m Down” – paid tribute to Little Richard’s shredded-throat style.
For many years Little Richard lived his life as an openly gay man. Later in life, however, he converted to Christianity and began making comments that many in the LGBTQ community found disturbing, with Little Richard saying that he was no longer gay and called homosexuality "unnatural."