Rock and Roll legend Little Richard has died at the age of 87 after a battle with cancer.
Little Richard was one of Rock and Roll’s innovators, being there at Rock’s origins. Richard Penniman was no overnight success. His first hit ‘Tutti Fruitti’ didn’t happened in 1955, four years after his first single ‘Taxi Blues’ in 1951. It was his seventh release after four years of flops.
Richard was a direct influence on The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney. The Beatles covered his 1956 hit ‘Long Tall Sally’ in 1964 during the ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ sessions. Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ b-side was ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’’, later covered by John Lennon.
As Little Richard held court on the pop charts of the late 70s, Elvis emerged. Little Richard rivaled Elvis for a chart run with ‘Keep A Knockin’, ‘Lucille’, ‘Jenny Jenny’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ becoming a late 50s soundtrack to an awakening Rock and Roll world.
Little Richard became a born again Christian during his Australian tour of 1957. On 12 October, 1957 he announced he was giving up show business to become a preacher. While on a cruise in Sydney he took of his Gold rings and threw them in the water. There are 10s of thousands of dollars of Little Richard jewelry at the bottom of Sydney Harbour.
Little Richard returned to live music in 1962 at the request of promoter Don Arden, the father of Sharon Osbourne. Beatles manager Brian Epstein asked Arden if The Beatles could open for Little Richard on his some dates of his UK tour and Arden agreed.
Little Richard had a major acting role in the 1984 Bette Midler ‘Down and Out In Beverly Hills’. It also gave him one more hit song ‘Great Gosh A’Mighty’.
Without Little Richard The Beatles would have had a slightly different sound. Richard is cited as a major influence for Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC and Bruno Mars.