Post by Tony
Little Richard R.I.P.
Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the
sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to
create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll
records, died on Saturday morning. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by his son, Danny Penniman. He did not say where
his father died or specify a cause.
Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already
been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti
Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its
meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September
1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley
had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been
making records for a year.
But Little Richard, delving deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music
and the blues, pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his
very life, raised the energy level several notches and created something
not quite like any music that had been heard before — something new,
thrilling and more than a little dangerous. As the rock historian Richie
Unterberger put it, “He was crucial in upping the voltage from
high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”