Little Richard, Founding Father Of Rock And R&B Music, Dies Aged 87

by : Lucy Connolly on : 09 May 2020 15:15
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Little Richard, one of the pioneers of the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll, has died at the age of 87.


Richard, whose real name was Richard Penniman, had been in poor health for several years, suffering hip problems, a stroke and a heart attack.

The musician’s son, Danny Penniman, confirmed his father had died but the cause of his death is currently unknown.

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Born in Macon, Georgia, in 1932, Little Richard grew to worldwide fame in the 50s, starting with his 1956 hit Tutti Frutti. He enjoyed a string of hits in the following years, including Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, Lucille, and Good Golly Miss Molly.


Although he experienced most of his success in the 50s, Little Richard’s influence was felt for many years later, with a number of his songs being covered by The Beatles, The Kinks, and Elvis Costello.

He was renowned for his unique and bold style, wearing makeup and brightly coloured clothes having previously been a drag performer. Although he attempted to shift his focus towards gospel in the late 60s, the musician returned to rock ‘n’ roll the following decade.

He was one of the first class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and later told Rolling Stone in 1990: ‘When I first came along, I never heard any rock ‘n’ roll.’

He continued:

When I started singing [rock ‘n’ roll], I sang it a long time before I presented it to the public because I was afraid they wouldn’t like it. I never heard nobody do it, and I was scared.

Since his death, tributes have been pouring in for the star, with music critic Simon Price describing him as ‘the firecracker who set it all off’, adding: ‘Right there at rock’n’roll’s Big Bang, this ungovernable force transcending race, gender and sexuality.’


Musician and lyricist Tim Rice tweeted: ‘The genius who gave us A WOP BOP A LOO BOP A LOP BAM BOOM and plenty more is no more. RIP The Great Little Richard an indisputably unique entertainer.’

Singer-songwriter Steven Van Zandt said he was the ‘man who invented rock ‘n’ roll’, adding: ‘Elvis popularised it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard was the archetype.’

Nile Rodgers described his death as ‘the loss of a true giant’, while Willie Geist described his impact on music as ‘immeasurable’, adding: ‘McCartney talks about singing Tutti Frutti on top of his school desk. Mick Jagger calls him “my first idol”.’

Our thoughts are with Richard’s loved ones at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Richard.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.

Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Music, Celebrity, Death, Little Richard, R&B, Rock 'n' Roll, Sound


Rolling Stone and 1 other
  1. Rolling Stone

    Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87

  2. Rolling Stone

    Little Richard: ‘I Am the Architect of Rock & Roll’