Little Richard, Rock'n'Roll Pioneer, Dies Aged 87, Cause of Death Unknown

May 9, 2020

Little Richard, one of the pioneers of the first wave of rock’n’roll, has died. He was 87.

Richard – whose real name was Richard Penniman – had been in poor health for several years, suffering hip problems, a stroke and a heart attack. Source The Guardien

 

Rolling Stone magazine said Richard’s son, Danny Penniman, “confirmed the pioneer’s death but said the cause of death was unknown”.

 

In a post on Instagram, 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!”

 

Richard’s breakthrough single, Tutti Frutti, was originally a song about anal sex – “If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy,” he sang – until the producer Bumps Blackwell suggested it be cleaned up. The song bequeathed rock’n’roll its greatest nonsensical expression of joy, whose exact syllables are still debated: “Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom!”

 

In 2014, AC/DC’s then singer Brian Johnson told the Guardian about the experience of seeing Little Richard on television for the first time: “It was a Saturday, it was one o’clock and it was sunny day. And this woman was going, ‘And now, from America, we have Little Richard.’ And it was this fucking black guy with this fucking ridiculous hairdo and teeth. He was fucking prettier than a woman. And it was Tutti Frutti …”

At this point, Johnson mimed slack-jawed amazement. “What the fuck? There was nothing, and then there was this.”

 

The band’s guitarist, Angus Young, said of Richard: “The way he plays and the way he sings, it’s art and science, everything together.”

 

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