Legendary Rock & Roll Icon Little Richard Dead at 87
Longtime rock and roll icon Little Richard died Saturday, May 9, at the age of 87. The spirited performer was known for his wildly electric piano skills, flamboyant persona, and showmanship. The energetic onstage performer’s death was confirmed by the musician’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, who also confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, but said the cause of death was unknown. It had been reported that Richard was being treated for bone cancer at the time of his death.
Born Richard Wayne Penniman, the legendary singer songwriter began performing in 1949 while still in high school; he would eventually leave school and join the traveling music group Dr. Hudson’s Medicine Show. It wasn’t until 1956 that Richard earned great success as a solo performer with “Tutti Frutti.”
Richard would go on a year-long run of chart-topping hits that included “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up,” all from the album Here’s Little Richard, which was released on March 1957 and went on to produced six Top 40 hits. In 1957 he released “Lucille,” followed by perhaps his biggest hit, “Good Golly Miss Molly,” in 1958.
Known as the innovator, originator, and the architect of rock and roll, Richard’s rapid-fire keyboard-playing style would go on to influence some of the biggest names in music. Elton John credits Little Richard as a major influence, adopting his style of play. Richard would go on to pave the way in rock and roll for other iconic musicians including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Freddie Mercury, and Jimi Hendrix among other notable performers.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Richard was a member of the initial class of inductees chosen for that honor. He would go on to receive countless awards for his contributions in music. Richard released a total of 15 studio albums along with 37 singles. Countless artists have covered his music in the eight decades since he exploded onto the scene.
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