Little Richard Born: December 5,1932-Still Alive Part Seven
In addition to his musical style, Little Richard was cited as one of the first crossover black artists, reaching audiences of all races. His music and concerts broke the color line, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. As H.B. Barnum explained in Quasar of Rock, Little Richard “opened the door. He brought the races together.” Barnum described Little Richard’s music as not being “boy-meets-girl-girl-meets-boy things, they were fun records, all fun. And they had a lot to say sociologically in our country and the world.” Barnum also stated that Little Richard’s “charisma was a whole new thing to the music business”, explaining that “he would burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience. He might come out and walk on the piano. He might go out into the audience.” Barnum also stated that Little Richard was innovative in that he would wear colorful capes, blouse shirts, makeup and suits studded with multi-colored precious stones and sequins, and that he also brought flickering stage lighting from his show business experience into performance venues where rock and roll artists performed. In 2015, the National Museum of African American Music honored Penniman for helping to shatter the color line on the music charts changing American culture forever.
Little Richard influenced generations of performers across musical genres. James Brown and Otis Redding both idolized Little Richard. Brown allegedly came up with the Famous Flames debut hit, “Please, Please, Please”, after Little Richard had written the words on a napkin. Redding started his professional career with Little Richard’s band, The Upsetters. He first entered a talent show performing Little Richard’s “Heeby Jeebies”, winning for 15 consecutive weeks. Ike Turner claimed most of Tina Turner’s early vocal delivery was based on Little Richard, something Little Richard himself reiterated in the foreword of Turner’s biography, King of Rhythm. Bob Dylan first performed covers of Little Richard’s songs on piano in high school with his rock and roll group, the Golden Chords; in 1959 when leaving school, he wrote in his yearbook under “Ambition”: “to join Little Richard”. Jimi Hendrix was influenced in appearance (clothing and hairstyle/mustache) and sound by Little Richard. He was quoted in 1966 saying, “I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice.” Others influenced by Little Richard early on in their lives included Bob Seger and John Fogerty. Michael Jackson admitted that Little Richard had been a huge influence on him prior to Off the Wall. Rock critics noted similarities between Prince’s androgynous look, music and vocal style to Little Richard’s.
The origins of Cliff Richard’s name change from Harry Webb was seen as a partial tribute to his musical hero Little Richard and singer Rick Richards. Several members of The Beatles were heavily influenced by Little Richard, including Paul McCartney and George Harrison. McCartney idolized Little Richard in school and later used Little Richard’s recordings as inspiration for his uptempo rockers, such as “I’m Down.”. “Long Tall Sally” was the first song McCartney performed in public. McCartney would later state, “I could do Little Richard’s voice, which is a wild, hoarse, screaming thing. It’s like an out-of-body experience. You have to leave your current sensibilities and go about a foot above your head to sing it.” During the Beatles’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Harrison commented, “thank you all very much, especially the rock ‘n’ rollers, an’ Little Richard there, if it wasn’t for (gesturing to Little Richard), it was all his fault, really.” Upon hearing Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” in 1956, John Lennon later commented that he was so impressed that he “couldn’t speak”. Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were also profoundly influenced by Little Richard, with Jagger citing him as his first induction to R&B music and referring to him as “the originator and my first idol”. Little Richard was an early vocal influence on Rod Stewart. David Bowie called Little Richard his “inspiration” stating upon listening to “Tutti Frutti” that he “heard God”.
After opening for him with his band Bluesology, pianist Reginald Dwight was inspired to be a “rock and roll piano player”, later changing his name to Elton John. Farrokh Bulsara performed covers of Little Richard’s songs as a teen, before finding fame as Freddie Mercury, frontman for Queen. Little Richard was referred to as Lou Reed’s rock and roll hero, deriving inspiration from “the soulful, primal force” of the sound made by Little Richard and his saxophonist on “Long Tall Sally.” Reed later stated, “I don’t know why and I don’t care, but I wanted to go to wherever that sound was and make a life.” Patti Smith said, “To me, Little Richard was a person that was able to focus a certain physical, anarchistic, and spiritual energy into a form which we call rock ‘n’ roll … I understood it as something that had to do with my future. When I was a little girl, Santa Claus didn’t turn me on. Easter Bunny didn’t turn me on. God turned me on. Little Richard turned me on.” The music of Deep Purple and Motörhead was also influenced by Little Richard, as well as that of AC/DC. The latter’s Bon Scott idolized Little Richard and aspired to sing like him, and Angus Young was first inspired to play guitar after listening to Little Richard’s music. Later performers such as Mystikal, André “André 3000” Benjamin of Outkast and Bruno Mars were cited by critics as having emulated Little Richard’s style in their own works. Mystikal’s rap vocal delivery was compared to Little Richard’s. André 3000’s vocals in Outkast’s hit, “Hey Ya!”, were compared to an “indie rock Little Richard”. Bruno Mars admitted Little Richard was one of his earliest influences. Mars’ song, “Runaway Baby” from his album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans was cited by the New York Times as “channeling Little Richard”.
Awards and honors
Little Richard received the Cashbox Triple Crown Award for “Long Tall Sally” in 1956. In 1984, he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, being a member of the initial class of inductees chosen for that honor. In 1990, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994. In 1993, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1997, he was given the American Music Award of Merit. In 2002, along with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, Little Richard was honored as one of the first group of BMI icons at the 50th Annual BMI Pop Awards. That same year, he was inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame. A year later, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was inducted into the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame. Four years afterwards, he received a plaque on the theater’s Walk of Fame. In 2008, he received a star at Nashville’s Music City Walk of Fame. In 2009, he was inducted to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. The UK issue of GQ named him its Man of the Year in its Legend category in 2010.
Little Richard appeared in person to receive an honorary degree from his hometown’s Mercer University on May 11, 2013. The day before the doctorate of humanities degree was to be bestowed upon him, the mayor of Macon announced that one of Little Richard’s childhood homes, an historic site, will be moved to a rejuvenated section of that city’s Pleasant Hill district. It will be restored and named the Little Richard Penniman – Pleasant Hill Resource House, a meeting place where local history and artifacts will be displayed as provided by residents. Penniman was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame on May 7, 2015. On June 6, 2015, Penniman was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame On June 19, 2015, the National Museum of African American Music honored Penniman with the Rhapsody & Rhythm Award for his key role in the formation of popular music genres, influencing singers and musicians across genres from Rock to Hip-Hop, and helping to shatter the color line on the music charts changing American culture forever.
In 2010, Time Magazine listed ‘Here’s Little Richard’ as the Number 2 of the 100 Greatest and Most Influential Album of All Time – the highest rock and roll album on the entire list. Included in numerous Rolling Stone lists, Little Richard’s Here’s Little Richard was ranked fifty on the magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. He was ranked eighth on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone listed three of Little Richard’s recordings, “The Girl Can’t Help It”, “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti”, on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Two of the latter songs and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” were listed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted several of Little Richard’s recordings including “Tutti Frutti”, “Lucille”, “Long Tall Sally” and Here’s Little Richard. “Tutti Frutti” topped music magazine Mojo’s list of “The 100 Records That Changed the World”. The same recording was inducted to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2010, with the library claiming the “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”.
* The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), lip-syncing the title number (different version from record), “Ready Teddy” and “She’s Got It”
* Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), lip-syncing “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti”
* Mister Rock and Roll (1957), lip-syncing “Lucille” and “Keep A-Knockin'”, on original prints
* Catalina Caper (aka Never Steal Anything Wet, 1967), Richard lip-syncs an original tune, “Scuba Party”, still unreleased on record by 2013.
* Little Richard: Live at the Toronto Peace Festival (1969) – released on DVD in 2009 by Shout! Factory
* The London Rock & Roll Show (1972), performing “Lucille”, “Rip It Up”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Tutti Frutti”, “I Believe” [a capella, a few lines], and “Jenny Jenny”
* Jimi Hendrix (1973)
* Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), co-starred as Orvis Goodnight and performed the production number, “Great Gosh A-Mighty”
* Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll TV Documentary (1987)
* Goddess of Love Made For TV Movie (1988)
* Purple People Eater (1988)
* Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (1989) (uncredited)
* Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1990) (voice)
* Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990)
* Columbo – S10E3 “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star” (1991) (Cameo)
* The Naked Truth (1992)
* Sunset Heat (1992)
* James Brown: The Man, The Message, The Music TV Documentary (1992)
* The Pickle (1993)
* Last Action Hero (1993)
* Full House (1994) (Cameo) – Episode: Too Little Richard Too Late
* Baywatch (1995) as Maurice in Episode: The Runaways
* Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998)
* Mystery Alaska (1999)
* The Trumpet of the Swan (2001) (voice)