Few figures towered over rock ‘n’ roll’s beginnings as largely as did Little Richard, who has died at 87 (official cause remains “unknown”).
The native Georgian’s litany of groundbreaking, piano pounding, sexed-up hits, influenced by the profane as well as the sacred — he came from a family of preachers — included “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.”
The last on that list was famously covered by the Beatles, who owed more than a little to Little Richard’s vocal mannerisms and exuberant performance style, particularly during the Fab Four’s early years.
The late Prince owed much to Richard. As did Elton John, of course: “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think,” John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”
While his songs never hit the Top 10 after the ’50s, “His songs became part of the rock and roll canon, covered over the decades by everyone from the Everly Brothers, the Kinks, and Creedence Clearwater Revival to Elvis Costello and the Scorpions,” David Browne writes in Rolling Stone.
With the passing of Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, is Lewis now the last living rock ‘n’ roll forefather?