Rock and roll pioneer Little Richard has passed away.
The legendary music icon was 87.
A cause of death has not been revealed.
Known for his wild, flamboyant performing style, Richard Wayne Penniman inspired young musicians all over the world. Born in Macon, Georgia—the second of 12 children—he was kicked out of his family’s home as a teenager and taken in by a white family, who ran the club where he first performed. He got his start performing jump blues, but his most famous and successful work—songs like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”—came in the mid-1950s.
His music was covered by contemporaries like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley. A wave of young British musicians—the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, and Lemmy Kilmister, to name a few—cited Little Richard as an influence. Elsewhere in the world, Richard was being studied by soul stars (Otis Redding, James Brown, Michael Jackson) and rock icons (Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, AC/DC).
In the late 1950s, he abandoned the raucous style of his early singles to pursue a career as a gospel artist. He would eventually return to rock’n’roll in the 1960s. Later in life, Richard made appearances in children’s programming and recorded a children’s album. He sang the theme song to “The Magic School Bus,” sang “Rubber Ducky” inside a bath tub on “Sesame Street,” and was a guest star on “Pee-wee’s Christmas Special.”
Little Richard was among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class of inductees in 1986. He received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and performed at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1992. The Library of Congress added “Tutti Frutti” to the National Recording Registry in 2010.
While an exact cause of death is unknown at this time, Little Richard suffered a heart attack in 2013 in which doctors credited the fact he took a baby aspirin as saving his life.
It’s a sad day for the music industry. RIP.