Little Richard And His Legacy In Rock And Roll Music

One of the Trailblazers of Rock and Roll has passed away earlier this month at the age of 87 on May 9th. Many can remember his hit song “Tutti Frutti” in 1956 that had audiences dancing regardless of race or gender. Little Richard rose to stardom in the late 50’s with hits such as “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Rip it up”, “Lucille”, and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” He was able to sustain success in a time where America was divided on race.

https://youtu.be/LVIttmFAzek
Listen to Little Richard’s hits “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti” here.

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Breaking Boundaries with Music

Segregation between blacks and whites was the norm. Little Richard was able to bring audiences no matter what color. At his concerts, blacks and whites were both dancing.  His loud soulful voice and sexually charged dance moves and lyrics were at the dawn of rock and roll. He, along with Chuck Berry were the focal point of Elvis’s inspiration. Once Elvis rose to fame with his booming voice, and electric dance moves, Rock and Roll was born. Known for his voice, Little Richard was also known for his wild lifestyle and his flamboyant fashion statements.

Here he is playing “Good Golly Miss Molly” for Muhammad Ali’s 50th Birthday

Little Richard’s style

The way he dressed like a glitter rock star can be seen as motivation for such artists like David Bowie and Elton John. Little Richard was very comfortable in his own skin. He stayed true to himself. He did not care about the way he dressed and he embraced it. When he was young, his father did not support him and his music and even speculated him of being gay. This led to Little Richard leaving home and moving in with a white family.

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Little Richard’s First Break

He was able to get his first record deal by the time he was 15 with RCA. Little Richard admitted in an interview in the 70’s that he was hesitant to release rock and roll music at first because he had not heard anyone else sing rock and roll before. He actually came up with the chorus to “Tutti Frutti” when he was working as a dishwasher. While he was washing dishes he also came up with ideas for the song “Long Tall Sally.” He took a break from music in 1957 and went to Bible college and became an ordained minister.

Listen to Little Richard perform “Lucille”

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Little Richard’s later career and influence to famous Rock Stars.

He decided to go back to music two years later and made a gospel album called God is Real. His Gospel career didn’t pan out like his rock music so he decided to go back to rock. In the early sixties he was opening up for acts such as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Both of those artists listened to Little Richard growing up. The Beatles even opened for one of his shows. John Lennon said he was fascinated by Little Richard and they were eager to hear what he was like backstage and just listen to him talk. It is safe to say that he inspired a whole generation of rock and even the greatest rock band of all time in The Beatles.

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Little Richard and the power behind the Music.

Not only was he a pioneer of Rock and Roll but he was also able to bridge the gap between race at a critical time in America. With politics at an all time high and so much criticism for each side nowadays, it is reassuring to see that Little Richard was able to bring people together through music. The times may have changed but one thing is certain. Music is a powerful tool that can heal during hard times. It is something we could certainly use during a time like this. He will surely be missed, but we can celebrate him by listening to his music and enjoy the musicality and spunk that he brought to Rock and Roll. 

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