Music Legend Little Richard Dies Aged 87

The rock and roll pioneer's death was confirmed by his son on Saturday.
Little Richard, pictured here during a performance in New York in 2012.
Little Richard, pictured here during a performance in New York in 2012.
Jeffrey Ufberg via Getty Images

Rock and roll pioneer Little Richard has died aged 87.

The musician – real name Richard Penniman – was known to have been in poor health for a number of years, and had previously survived a heart attack and a stroke.

Rolling Stone magazine broke the news on Saturday, stating that the Tutti Frutti singer’s son had confirmed the news, but said the cause of his death was currently unknown.

Richard’s bass guitarist, Charles Glenn, told celebrity website TMZ the musician had been sick for two months and that he died at his Tennessee home, surrounded by his brother, sister and son.

Glenn told TMZ he spoke with Richard on March 27 and the singer asked him to visit, but he could not because of the pandemic. He said Richard was like a father to him, and would sometimes tell him, “Not to take anything away from your dad, but you’re my son.”

At his peak in the 1950s and early ’60s, Richard shouted, moaned, screamed and trilled hits like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly” and “Lucille,” all the while pounding the piano like a mad man and punctuating lyrics with an occasional shrill “whoooo!”

Time magazine said he played “songs that sounded like nonsense ... but whose beat seemed to hint of unearthly pleasures centred somewhere between the gut and the gutter.”

The music drew in both young black and white fans at a time when parts of the United States still were strictly segregated. Many white artists, such as Pat Boone, had their own hit versions of Richard’s songs, albeit considerably toned down and “safer” for the pop audience.

“I’ve always thought that rock ‘n’ roll brought the races together,” Richard once told an interviewer. “Although I was black, the fans didn’t care. I used to feel good about that.”

Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, James Brown, Otis Redding, David Bowie and Rod Stewart all cited Little Richard as an influence. Jimi Hendrix, who played in Richard’s band in the mid-1960s, said he wanted to use his guitar the way Richard used his voice.