Tributes have been paid to rock n’ roll originator Little Richard, who has passed away aged 87.
The icon, real name Richard Wayne Penniman, known as a founding father of rock n’ roll and renowned for his flamboyant style and free-spirited attitude, died today (Saturday, May 9). His son Danny Jones Penniman confirmed his death to Rolling Stone. His lawyer Bill Sobel later confirmed that the cause of death was bone cancer.
Born in Macon, Georgia, on December 5, 1932, Little Richard was one of 12 children. His father was a preacher who also ran a nightclub, and his mother was a devout Baptist.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 in 1998, he said he started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings.
“I was the biggest head of all, and I still have the biggest head,” he said. “I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention.”
As an artist, Little Richard’s breakthrough came in 1956 with the single ‘Tutti Frutti’, before cementing his fame and reputation with the quickfire run of hits ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Lucille’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, among others. His 1957 debut album ‘Here’s Little Richard’ remains a template for the genre.
Earning the nickname “The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll”, he had an immeasurable influence across the world of music – inspiring the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John and countless more.
Little Richard was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and in the same year he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 1993.
Tributes have already started to roll in for the musical pioneer.
Mick Jagger wrote a lenghty and heartfelt post on Instagram. “I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard, he was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50’s,” he said of the icon.
“When we were on tour with him I would watch his moves every night and learn from him how to entertain and involve the audience and he was always so generous with advice to me. He contributed so much to popular music. I will miss you Richard, God bless.”
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I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard, he was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50’s. When we were on tour with him I would watch his moves every night and learn from him how to entertain and involve the audience and he was always so generous with advice to me. He contributed so much to popular music. I will miss you Richard, God bless.
Tom Jones posted a video of he and Little Richard performing together, writing: “To my dear Richard, You’re a true original, you broke all the rules and you weren’t afraid to show it. A magnificent talent and an inspiration to so many of us. My heart goes out to your loved ones, RIP my friend.”
To my dear Richard,You're a true original, you broke all the rules and you weren’t afraid to show it. A magnificent talent and an inspiration to so many of us. My heart goes out to your loved ones, RIP my friend.
Posted by Tom Jones on Saturday, May 9, 2020
Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys wrote: “I’m very sorry to hear about Little Richard. He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was a such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard’s music will last forever.”
I’m very sorry to hear about Little Richard. He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was a such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard’s music will last forever.
Love & Mercy, Brian pic.twitter.com/kcak6Rf4Re
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) May 9, 2020
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl shared an autographed picture of Little Richard on Twitter. “I was once asked, “If u could meet one person, who would it be?” I always said Little Richard,” he wrote. “Because, to me, he was rock & roll’s most joyus, rebellious innovator. Thank u for planting that seed, Richard. The world is a much happier place thanks to ur music.”
I was once asked, “If u could meet one person, who would it be?” I always said Little Richard. Because, to me, he was rock & roll’s most joyous, rebellious innovator.
Thank u for planting that seed, Richard. The world is a much happier place thanks to ur music.#RIPLittleRichard pic.twitter.com/kiq2VOZs8O
— Foo Fighters (@foofighters) May 9, 2020
“I just heard the news about Little Richard and I’m so grieved,” Bob Dylan shared on Facebook. “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.
“I played some shows with him in Europe in the early nineties and got to hang out in his dressing room a lot. He was always generous, kind and humble. And still dynamite as a performer and a musician and you could still learn plenty from him. In his presence he was always the same Little Richard that I first heard and was awed by growing up and I always was the same little boy. Of course he’ll live forever. But it’s like a part of your life is gone.”
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…
Flatbush Zombies rapper Meechy Darko tweeted that Little Richard was “one of the most important musicians to ever fuckin live,” before adding that he “never ever got his flowers the right way.”
THATS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MUSICIANS TO EVER FUCKIN LIVE
NEVER EVER GOT HIS FLOWERS THE RIGHT WAY
— Count Rackula aka 2Cup Shakur aka Durt Cobain aka. (@MeechIsDEAD) May 9, 2020
The actor Leon, who portrayed the rock n roll icon in the 2000 biopic Little Richard, wrote: “Little Richard, the #architect & founding father of #rockandroll died this morning. I was blessed to portray him in his authorized #biopic #littlerichard directed my #fiveheartbeats brother “Duck” @Robert_Townsend#RIP You made a mark on the world that will #neverbeforgotten
Little Richard, the #architect & founding father of #rockandroll died this morning. I was blessed to portray him in his authorized #biopic #littlerichard directed by my #fiveheartbeats brother “Duck” @Robert_Townsend#RIP You made a mark on the world that will #neverbeforgotten pic.twitter.com/V7vpXDJZII
— LEON (@justleon) May 9, 2020
David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, recalled his father telling him about Little Richard when he was younger, saying that it was “very likely [Bowie] would not have taken the path he did without the huge influence of Little Richard.”
From what my dad told me about his love of this legend growing up, it’s very likely he would not have taken the path he did without the huge influence of Little Richard.
One of the highest of the high.
Enjoy whatever’s next, Superstar. pic.twitter.com/BbeYa2fs1Z
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) May 9, 2020
“If one could claim to sum up the spirit of rock’n’roll, it’s this one,” Billy Bragg said of the icon. “So long, Little Richard.”
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) May 9, 2020
Ringo Starr took to Twitter to pay tribute, writing that Little Richard was one of his “all-time musical heroes.” He added: “Peace and love to all his family.”
God bless little Richard one of my all-time musical heroes. Peace and love to all his family. 😎✌️🌟❤️🎵🎶💕☮️ pic.twitter.com/H2lzKbX3tm
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) May 9, 2020
See more tributes to the fallen rock n’ roll icon below:
— Debbie Harry/BLONDIE (@BlondieOfficial) May 9, 2020
Little Richard one of the greatest ever ! x x Rest in peace x Fashion king big influence on Ol Gregg x x pic.twitter.com/S49Zchgrm4
— noel fielding (@noelfielding11) May 9, 2020
MESSAGE FROM IGGY: „Dear Little Richard, thank you, RIP”
— Iggy Pop (@IggyPop) May 9, 2020
RIP Little Richard, a very sad loss. My thoughts are with his loved ones.
It’s Little Richard’s songs that pioneered rock’n’roll. I got to hear him and his band at the Newport Lounge in Miami and boy were they good. pic.twitter.com/JXgahhJAfk
— Jimmy Page (@JimmyPage) May 9, 2020
Rest In Peace To One Of The True Creators Of Rock And Roll. This Is The Commercial I Directed With Little Richard And Michael Jordan, 1991. pic.twitter.com/51bEV1eYKB
— Spike Lee (@SpikeLeeJoint) May 9, 2020
The track we recorded “The Power” is a favourite in my catalogue. We also played live at the Beverly Hilton and I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.
He influenced so many and is irreplaceable. A true legend, icon and a force of nature. #RIP Little Richard
Love, Elton x
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 9, 2020
I interviewed Little Richard some years ago he was awesome. There has been anything close to his volcanic explosion of talent into forming Rock and Roll in the 1950s. I knew Andre Harrell and first met him mopping a HarlemWorld floor in 80, worked with his artists. Rest in Beats pic.twitter.com/4M7YjfosZP
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) May 9, 2020
Rock Is Dead
The Right Reverend Penniman
The Architect of Rock & Roll
Roll has lost it’s Soul
It’s 1st most daring & outrageous Forefather.
Rest In Power FOREVER
— Vernon Reid (@vurnt22) May 9, 2020
No Jimi, No Beatles No Bowie, No Bolan. NO GLAM, No Freddie, No Prince, No Elton, No Preston No Sly, No Stevie, WITHOUT Little Richard!They DON’T HAPPEN Without HIM BLAZING A TRAIL IN THE DARK in sequence, if he had his SHIRT ON AT ALL, AT THE PIANO, SCREAMING LIKE A WHITE WOMAN
— Vernon Reid (@vurnt22) May 9, 2020
Salutations and Godspeed to the great Little Richard x
— Carl Barat (@carlbaratmusic) May 9, 2020
The Innovator, originator, the architect…. a Rock and Roll king! A god has left the earth. Rest in Power Little Richard. pic.twitter.com/yVYEVxr9Vj
— Third Man Records (@thirdmanrecords) May 9, 2020
RIP Little Richard. The man who invented It. Elvis popularized it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the Spirit of RocknRoll. Maureen and I were so honored being the first marriage he conducted. Were lucky to know him. He lives forever in the Underground Garage.
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) May 9, 2020
Oh man. His records sound amazing still. They knock u for six. So glad I got to see him in Liverpool in 2000. One of the Greats. R.I.P. Little Richard. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/zUXbtwC77z
— Marc Riley ⚽️🍺🐳 (@marcrileydj) May 9, 2020
R.I.P. Rock & Roll Legend Little Richard
— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) May 9, 2020
Little Richard. Hanging out, getting to rehearse, play guitar with him on Tutti Frutti might be one of my top 3 musical all time great moments. He was and will be always the king, the queen, the everything.
— Kathy Valentine (@Kathy_Valentine) May 9, 2020
The originator. The innovator. The emancipator. The motivator. Little Richard was the King, Queen and all in between of Rock and Roll. pic.twitter.com/5jkubgkajD
— Aaron Blitzstein (@BlitznBeans) May 9, 2020
A couple weeks ago I randomly decided to read up on the legendary Little Richard on wiki. I learned then about how he developed The Beatles and saved The Rolling Stones pic.twitter.com/lUEvYG1Mew
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) May 9, 2020
Sadly, Little Richard passed away today. A founding Father of Rock And Roll, his contributions simply can’t be overstated. I had the honor of meeting Richard in his later years and was awed by his presence. He told me, “I am the architect of Rock And Roll.” Amen! ..Rest In Peace. https://t.co/ceQuNU6pkF
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) May 9, 2020
RIP The Incredible Little Richard RS pic.twitter.com/yVCesE6LiR
— Ron Sexsmith (@RonSexsmith) May 9, 2020
I met Little Richard when I was 13 or 14 at Aunt Kizzy’s in Marina Del Ray. The advice he gave me is invaluable. He was such a class act and I will never forget the time I sat at his table and he talked to me like I was his little bro. RIP Little Richard
— Tevin Campbell (@tevincampbelll) May 9, 2020
In the late 1980s, I was walking down Hollywood Blvd, a black limo drove by slowly, Little Richard waved at us from the back window with a crazy look on his face. A giant in Rock and Roll music.
— Krist Novoselić (@KristNovoselic) May 9, 2020
Little Richard, the Architect, with 4 fans. pic.twitter.com/1NllBVB8e7
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) May 9, 2020
Little Richard with his band's guitarist Jimi Hendrix, Feb. 21, 1965, Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/0g9GtgRSgM
— Stones Throw (@stonesthrow) May 9, 2020
Rest in peace legend 🙏🏻 https://t.co/PnAv83nojB
— Sam Carter (@samarchitects) May 9, 2020
Little Richard, who was known for his flamboyant and energetic performances, has died. This old "Tutti Fruitti" will miss his style and flair. Play the keys among the stars now, sir. You will be missed.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) May 9, 2020
The loss of a true giant. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends. https://t.co/nzTDmQtLm7
— Nile Rodgers (@nilerodgers) May 9, 2020