Rock and roll pioneer Little Richard dies aged 87

9 May 2020, 16:00

Rock and Roll legend Little Richard has died
Rock and Roll legend Little Richard has died. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Rock legend Little Richard, whose music inspired a generation of artists including The Beatles, has died aged 87.

Richard was a pianist-singer and one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. His hits include “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally”.

His son, Danny Penniman, confirmed the singer's death to Rolling Stone but the cause of death remains unknown.

The rock pioneer's first hit "Tutti Frutti" was released in 1956 and was followed by “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958.

Several of his songs were also covered by The Beatles and Paul McCartney's singing on those tracks, as well as the band's own "I'm Down", was heavily inspired by Little Richard.

Other influential bands covered his tracks over the decades including the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions.

His androgynous persona including makeup and glass-bead shirts also inspired Prince.

His music inspired an entire generation of artists
His music inspired an entire generation of artists. Picture: Getty

Richard told Joan Rivers in 1989: "Prince is the Little Richard of his generation."

Born in Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, in Macon, Georgia, he was on of 12 children and grew up around uncles who were preachers.

He sang in a nearby church but his father was not supportive of his musical aspirations and accused him of being gay, causing his family to kick him out of the house as a teenager.

Little Richard would continue to struggle with his own sexuality for years. He identified as gay and said in 1995: “I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.”

But years later in 2017 he denounced homosexuality during an interview with a Christian broadcaster.

The US performer's songs were covered by major artists, including The Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, and The Kinks.