Little Richard Born: December 5,1932-Still Alive Part Six
In October 1985, Little Richard returned to the United States from England, where he had finished recording his album Lifetime Friend, to film a guest spot on the show, Miami Vice. Following the taping, he accidentally crashed his sports car into a telephone pole in West Hollywood, California. He suffered a broken right leg, broken ribs and head and facial injuries. His recovery from the accident took several months. His accident prevented him from being able to attend the inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in January 1986 where he was one of several inductees. He instead supplied a recorded message.
In 2007, Little Richard was having problems walking due to sciatica in his left leg, requiring him to use crutches. In November 2009, he entered a hospital to have replacement surgery on his left hip. Despite returning to performance the following year, Little Richard’s problems with his hip continued and he has since been brought onstage by wheelchair. He has told fans that his surgery has his hip “breaking inside” and refuses to have further work on it.
On September 30, 2013, he revealed to CeeLo Green at a Recording Academy fundraiser that he had suffered a heart attack at his home the week prior and stated he used aspirin and had his son turn the air conditioner on, which his doctor confirmed had saved his life. Little Richard stated, “Jesus had something for me. He brought me through”.
On April 28, 2016, Little Richard’s friend, Bootsy Collins stated on his Facebook page that, “he is not in the best of health so I ask all the Funkateers to lift him up.” Reports subsequently began being published on the internet stating that Little Richard was in grave health and that his family were gathering at his bedside. On May 3, 2016, Rolling Stone reported that Little Richard and his lawyer provided a health information update in which Richard stated, “not only is my family not gathering around me because I’m ill, but I’m still singing. I don’t perform like I used to, but I have my singing voice, I walk around, I had hip surgery a while ago but I’m healthy.'” His lawyer also reported: “He’s 83. I don’t know how many 83-year-olds still get up and rock it out every week, but in light of the rumors, I wanted to tell you that he’s vivacious and conversant about a ton of different things and he’s still very active in a daily routine. I used to represent Prince and he just engaged me in all kinds of Prince conversations, calling him a ‘creative genius.'”
He claims to be “the architect of rock and roll”, and history would seem to bear out Little Richard’s boast. More than any other performer – save, perhaps, Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly” defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll.
—Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Little Richard’s music and performance style had a pivotal effect on the shape of the sound and style of popular music genres of the 20th century. As a rock and roll pioneer, Little Richard embodied its spirit more flamboyantly than any other performer. Little Richard’s raspy shouting style gave the genre one of its most identifiable and influential vocal sounds and his fusion of boogie-woogie, New Orleans R&B and gospel music blazed its rhythmic trail.
Combining elements of boogie, gospel, and blues, Little Richard introduced several of rock music’s most characteristic musical features, including its loud volume and vocal style emphasizing power, and its distinctive beat and rhythm. He departed from boogie-woogie’s shuffle rhythm and introduced a new distinctive rock beat, where the beat division is even at all tempos. He reinforced the new rock rhythm with a two-handed approach, playing patterns with his right hand, with the rhythm typically popping out in the piano’s high register. His new rhythm, which he introduced with “Tutti Frutti” (1955), became the basis for the standard rock beat, which was later consolidated by Chuck Berry. “Lucille” (1957) foreshadowed the rhythmic feel of 1960s classic rock in several ways, including its heavy bassline, slower tempo, strong rock beat played by the entire band, and verse–chorus form similar to blues.
Little Richard’s voice was able to generate croons, wails, and screams unprecedented in popular music. He was cited by two of soul music’s pioneers, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, as contributing to that genre’s early development. Redding stated that most of his music was patterned after Little Richard’s and that he had “done a lot for [him] and [his] soul brothers in the music business.” Cooke said in 1962 that Little Richard had done “so much for our music”. Cooke had a top 40 hit in 1963 with his cover of Little Richard’s soulful 1956 hit ‘Send Me Some Loving’.
James Brown said that Little Richard and the Upsetters, including drummer Charles “Chuck” Connor, were “the first to put the funk in rhythm”, with a biographer stating that their music “spark[ed] the musical transition from fifties rock and roll to sixties funk”.
Little Richard’s hits of the mid-1950s, such as “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Keep A-Knockin'” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”, were generally characterized by playful lyrics with sexually suggestive connotations. AllMusic writer Richie Unterberger stated that Little Richard “merged the fire of gospel with New Orleans R&B, pounding the piano and wailing with gleeful abandon”, and that while “other R&B greats of the early ’50s had been moving in a similar direction, none of them matched the sheer electricity of Richard’s vocals. With his high speed deliveries, ecstatic trills, and the overjoyed force of personality in his singing, he was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock and roll.” Due to his innovative music and style, he’s often widely acknowledged as the “architect of rock and roll”.
Ray Charles introduced him at a concert in 1988 as “a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what’s happening today.” Rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley called Little Richard “one of a kind” and “a show business genius” that “influenced so many in the music business”. Little Richard’s contemporaries, including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, all recorded covers of Little Richard’s works. Taken by Little Richard’s music and style, and personally covering four of Little Richard’s tunes on his own two breakthrough albums in 1956, Presley told Little Richard in 1969 that his music was an inspiration to him and that he was “the greatest”. Pat Boone noted in 1984, “no one person has been more imitated than Little Richard”. As they wrote about Little Richard for their Man of the Year – Legend category in 2010, GQ magazine stated that Little Richard “is, without question, the boldest and most influential of the founding fathers of rock’n’roll”. R&B pioneer Johnny Otis stated that “Little Richard is twice as valid artistically and important historically as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones put together.”