Little Richard (1932-2020)
An ostentatious and vivacious, openly gay performer whose persona and driving music brought energy and style to the birth of rock ‘n roll, Richard started out as a cross-dressing act in a travelling ‘medicine show.’ A string of bombastic, high-energy hits during the 1950s, including “Lucille,” “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” cemented his place in the rock ‘n roll canon. Visually, Richard was flamboyant, with pompadour hair and make-up and fiery on-stage antics. His influence on some seminal musicians, though often underrated, makes Richard a must-listen for anyone interested in the evolution of popular music.
Little Richard quotes:
“I call my music the healing music. It makes the blind feel that they can see, the lame feel that they can walk, the deaf and dumb that they can hear and talk.”*
Musicians influenced by Little Richard:
The Beatles (1960 – 1970) – The Fab Four, who met Richard in their early Hamburg days, were massive fans and covered several of his songs.
Otis Redding (1941 – 1967) – According to the incendiary Stax singer: “If it hadn’t been for Little Richard, I wouldn’t be here.”
Led Zeppelin (1968 – 1980) – Early blues-rock and rock ‘n roll formed the bedrock of Zep’s sound. Zep drummer John Bonham copied the drum intro for Zep’s track “Rock And Roll,” from Richard’s 1957 hit, “Keep A-Knockin’.”
Elton John (b 1947) – John’s on-stage flamboyance, pounding piano and falsetto adornments owe much to Richard. “Without a doubt, he was my biggest influence,” tweeted John himself.*
Queen (1970 – present) – Richard laid down the blueprint for Freddie Mercury’s sexual ambiguity and Queen’s pomp.
James Brown (1933 – 2006) – It was seeing Richard perform live that steered Brown away from Gospel towards secular music.