Little Richard, an early pioneer of the first wave of rock n’ roll, has passed away at the age of 87. The musician’s son, Danny Penniman, revealed the news on Rolling Stone magazine, but the cause of death has not yet been disclosed. Richard, whose real name was Richard Penniman, had been suffering from health problems for several years.
The pianist-singer was born in Macon, Georgia – the second of 12 children – before being kicked out as teenager and taken in by a white family who owned the club where he first performed. Richard became famous in the mid-50s with the hits ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Lucile’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Rip It Up’, and ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, among others, and was particularly known for his flamboyant style, frenetic performances, and raspy singing. His music and personality came to inspire countless musicians, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, and Prince, who have all cited him as a major influence.
In the late 50s, Richard changed his lifestyle to pursue a career as a gospel artist, before returning to rock n’ roll in the 1960s. In 1986, he joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class of inductees, and in 1993 was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys. In 2010, ‘Tutti Frutti’ was included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
In an Instagram post, band member Kelvin Holly said: “Rest in peace, Richard. This one really stings. My thoughts and prayers go out to all my bandmates and fans all over the world. Richard truly was the king!”