Little Richard, an early pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll music, has died at the age of 87.
Rolling Stone was the first to report his passing, citing the confirmation by his son, Danny Penniman. Little Richard reportedly died on Saturday morning due to reasons still unknown, according to pastor Bill Minson, who was a good friend of his.
Little Richard was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, and was raised as Richard Wayne Penniman. Growing up in the southern state, he mastered the melodies of gospel music and the sounds of New Orleans, incorporating them into his own piano-charged extravaganzas. He was one of the first inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Richard’s career started when he was in his mid-teens, at the end of the 40s, but his early records for the RCA Victor label earned little attention. The real breakout came when he signed with Specialty Records in 1955, launching a string of singles that were among the wildest and most flamboyant in the rock ‘n’ roll era, and that made him a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic.
Some of the late rock legend’s hits included “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” If Little Richard had not been there, a vital element in the DNA of the music he inspired might have been absent from plays like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix – all of which had idolized him. He also became renowned for his shocking style of presentation – lips filled with mascara, vividly colored clothing – which was later repeated by Prince.
Though his cause of death remains unconfirmed, Little Richard had been in poor health for several years, suffering hip problems, a stroke, and a heart attack. Little Richard’s longtime agent, Dick Alen, has since confirmed to People that he was battling cancer.
“Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville,” Alen said. “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.’ He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”
Once again, another legend has fallen. His essence is immortalized, even in materials that are not his own.
R.I.P Little Richard.