Little Richard, the innovative rock music pioneer, has died aged 87
(Credit: Okeh Records)

Little Richard, the innovative rock music pioneer, has died aged 87

Little Richard, the iconic and famed American singer, songwriter, and rock musician, has died at the age of 87.

The musician’s son, Danny Penniman, confirmed Richard’s death in a statement issued to Rolling Stone. The cause of his death, however, remains unknown at this time. 

Richard, a major influential figure in the development of popular music and a figure who pioneered the culture of rock music for seven decades, started life in the music industry in the mid-1950s and didn’t look back.

Forging a career like no other, Richard became as well known for his charismatic, flamboyant showmanship while performing his dynamic and often frenetic music. Heavily credited as being a major player in setting the solid foundations for the genre of rock music, Richard is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Such is Richard’s prowess, the musician was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 where his influence on the genre was highly celebrated. “He claims to be ‘the architect of rock and roll’, and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast,” the foundation said at the time. “More than any other performer—save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona.

“On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.”

Not only did Richard help plant the beginnings of rock and roll, he went on to influence countless other iconic names of popular culture. “I heard so much about the audience reaction, I thought there must be some exaggeration,” the Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger once said. “But it was all true. He drove the whole house into a complete frenzy … I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard onstage. He was amazing.”

Lemmy, the iconic figure of Motörhead, once said: “Little Richard was always my main man. How hard must it have been for him: gay, black and singing in the South? But his records are a joyous good time from beginning to end.”

The list of appraisals is endless, Ray Charles introduced him as “a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what’s happening today,” Elvis Presley told him that he was “the greatest” and Bo Diddley claimed Richard was “one of a kind” and “a show business genius”.

RIP.

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