Friday, June 21, 2024

Little Richard (Richard Penniman) An Inventor of Rock and Roll, Influenced the Beatles, Everyone, Dead at 87


The real King is dead. Little Richard, born Richard Penniman, has died at age 87. Don’t be fooled by anyone else: he invented rock and roll with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. There is only one Little Richard, he was so unique that the Beatles literally created themselves in his image. He’d been living in a penthouse suite at the Nashville Hilton for the last decade or more.

I was lucky enough to see Richard perform twice. I was at his last show ever at the Apollo (June 2006). He had to be ferried out to the stage, but when he sat down his fingers found the keys and he was off in a blaze of glory. The other time was earlier, at Lou Rawls’s famous funeral in Los Angeles, where families were fighting, it was a scene. Into the middle of this, Richard came swanning in and took over. It was surreal.

Richard’s songs — “Long Tall Sally,” “Tutti Frutti,” “Slippin’ and Sliding” and dozens more are part of the foundation of rock and roll. It’s what everyone built on. Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billy Joel and so many stars who could play a piano, and then turn it into vehicle, worshiped at his feet. It was the music and the showmanship. And the yell. Good Golly miss Molly.

He’s in every Hall of Fame, and remembered for history on video. Grammy Awards? Who cares? He IS the Grammy Award. PS Many people don’t realize this but Billy Preston, the “Fifth Beatle,” joined Richard’s band as a kid after recognizing Billy’s genius at 15. That’s how Billy met the Beatles when Richard took with him to Hamburg in 1962. The Beatles were Little Richard’s opening act.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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