Little Richard iTunes Tracks

Little Richard

Outrageously preened in flamboyant pink bodysuits, this eccentric, clowning catalyst of R&B and 50s rock’n’roll, was like nothing the white music establishment had ever encountered – and, in both his image and his hollering, tongue-in-cheek assault, the effeminate LITTLE RICHARD (born Richard Wayne Penniman, December 5, 1932, in Macon, Georgia) borrowed nothing from his contemporaries, ‘cept the swagger. An influence on a young McCARTNEY, LENNON, HENDRIX, BOWIE, ELTON JOHN, PRINCE, and countless others, the high voltage electricity of Richard’s live presence and such classics as `Tutti-Frutti’, `Long Tall Sally’, `Rip It Up’, `Lucille’, `Keep A Knockin’’, `Good Golly, Miss Molly’, et al, was a hard to match to follow.
Raised in a large family by preacher parents, who schooled him in the ways of gospel singing, he excelled after winning a talent contest in 1951. Aged 16, the petite Penniman was given the opportunity (through singer and inspiration, Billy Wright) to record for RCA-Victor. After four flop singles for the imprint, LITTLE RICHARD subsequently moved on to Don Robey’s Peacock label in 1953, where he sessioned for doo-wop group, The Tempo Toppers.
After fronting the Johnny Otis Orchestra in 1955, the man duly signed a solo deal with Specialty Records. His first single for the label, the co-penned `Tutti Frutti’ gave him his maiden entry into the US Top 20. Over the course of the next few years, he flounced his way through a series of classic hits which would subsequently become standards:- `Long Tall Sally’, `Rip It Up’ (b/w `Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’)’, `The Girl Can’t Help It’ (exposure from RnR movie of the same name gave him yet another UK hit), and other aforementioned crackers. Albums of the era, HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD (1957) {*8} and the self-titled LITTLE RICHARD (1958) {*7}, also proved he could fit into a niche between rivals FATS DOMINO, RAY CHARLES and CHUCK BERRY. Then, at the height of his fame (with a handful of other movie appearances behind him), LITTLE RICHARD was to publicly renounce his “evil” rock’n’roll music/lifestyle, reverting back to gospel and pledging his life to “Jeeesus”.
In 1960, the now Reverend LITTLE RICHARD spent a couple of years under the production of QUINCY JONES, but returned to rock’n’roll in 1964. Although he had a few minor hits, including `Bama Lama Bama Loo’, his new material was overshadowed by British acts covering his earlier work. In the 70s, Richard released the odd album, while collaborating with the likes of CANNED HEAT and DELANEY & BONNIE, swinging back and forth between rock’n’roll and God, homosexuality and heterosexuality. A return to the Top 50 in the shape of `Freedom Blues’ (scribed with Esquerita and spawned from 1970’s THE RILL THING {*6}), saw him take a Cajun/country-rock stance; check out his take of The BEATLES’ `I Saw Her Standing There’. The celebratory and high-energy LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL (1971) {*6} saw the giddy growler embrace a “melting pot” of songs from THREE DOG NIGHT (`Joy To The World’) and CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL (`Born On The Bayou’) to The ROLLING STONES (`Brown Sugar’) and HANK WILLIAMS (`I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’); meanwhile, 1972’s self-penned THE SECOND COMING {*6} was also Blaxploitation – if they could’ve found it a film.
By the mid 80s, the veteran showman was back in the limelight when he took up the offer to appear in the movie, Down And Out In Beverly Hills (1986); the attendant chart hit, `Great Gosh A’Mighty! (It’s A Matter Of Time)’ was his final one. From then on in, LITTLE RICHARD successfully kept his profile high via guest spots in TV series, including Miami Vice, while also fraternising with top-named celebrities such as ELTON JOHN, TANYA TUCKER and er, Kermit The Frog! In 2000, there was a TV biopic movie about the man, thoughtfully titled, Little Richard. Ten years on (and beyond his 80th birthday bash), the man still made the odd celebrity cameo, his last just might have been at Las Vegas’ Orleans Hotel in March 2013.
Sadly, one of the greatest rock’n’roll showmen and pioneers passed away of bone cancer on May 9, 2020. He was truly a one-off, not just a star but a quasar, who’d inspired generations of followers from all over the globe.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS // rev-up MCS May2013-May2020

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