David Bowie once said, “If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into music … So I bought a saxophone.” Elton John previously stated, “I never wanted to be anything else,” after listening to the music of this legend. KISS leader Gene Simmons even tweeted, “Founding father of rock and roll, his contributions simply cannot be overstated.”
Who could evoke such a strong response from some of the biggest names in the industry? None other than Little Richard.
Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, died on May 9, 2023, at the age of 87; Richard’s son Danny Jones Penniman confirmed the sad news to Rolling Stone, and his lawyer, Bill Sobel, said the cause of death was bone cancer. Considering its tremendous impact on the rock’n’roll genre, and music in general, this loss is significant. Both fans and celebrities instantly flooded social media with tributes to the artist.
According to the New York Times, Richard once said, “Many people call me the architect of rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t call myself that, but I think it’s true”. For the record, he did so presumably it calls itself SF Gate in 2003, “I created rock ‘n’ roll! I am the innovator! I am the emancipator! I am an architect! I am the creator! I’m the one who started it!”
Regardless of who first said it, it was an architect, so let’s take a look at what may have been the talented singer’s favorite music.
Little Richard knew he ‘really made hits’
It’s almost impossible for fans to pick a favorite Little Richard song, so imagine how difficult it must have been for the artist himself. As such, there is no simple answer here. For Rolling Stone, Richard once reflected on his 1956 hit “Ready Teddy”, saying that the lyrics had been brought to him and worked its magic: “I created the tune and at the time I didn’t have enough sense to claim so much money, because I really I won the hits. I didn’t get the money, but I still have the freedom.”
There was also “Good Golly Miss Molly,” his latest Top 10 hit, according to the New York Times. Fans can’t forget “Long Tall Sally” either. In an interview with SF Gate Richard not only admitted that his first tour was his “favorite”, but he said of the last song: “Hitting the piano took it all. That piano sound really did it.”
But you can’t talk about Little Richard’s music without shouting his first big hit: “Tutti Frutti.” According to Rolling Stone, the catchy chorus actually occurred to him in the least likely place: “I was washing dishes at the Greyhound bus station at the time.” He told the magazine in 1990 that the song brought people from different backgrounds together: “‘Tutti Frutti’ really started racing together. From the beginning, my music was accepted by whites.”
Still, Little Richard was no stranger to success. So what inspired his biggest hits anyway?
Little Richard’s gospel roots were intertwined with his music
Little Richard reportedly grew up surrounded by uncles who were preachers and that faithful spirit never really abandoned him. Little Richard said Rolling Stone in 1970, “I think my music is healing music … It lifts the soul, you see everyone move, they are happy, it regenerates the heart and makes the liver tremble, the splashes of the bladder and the knees become freeze”.
The style of his hit “Tutti Frutti” was also inspired by his religious upbringing, and he told the magazine in the same interview, “Well, you know I used to play piano for church … So style has always been with me, But I had never presented it for people to hear … I admired it [other artists], but I always had the little thing that I wanted the world to hear”.
To promote this focus on his faith, he released a gospel album called God is Real in 1959. According to BuzzFeed News Richard even became an ordained minister. For Rolling Stone, John Lennon of The Beatles once said, “I used to read the Bible in the backstage and just to hear him speak we sit and listen. I still love him and he’s one of the best.”
Whether his God is real his favorite album was impossible to confirm, but he was clearly close to Little Richard’s heart. And it seems safe to say that his other music was too. His legacy will continue to be felt for years to come.
Read Also: INSIDE LITTLE RICHARD’S REAL LIFE STORY