The legendary Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, influenced many musicians in his time: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince, and countless others. Little Richard came into the industry in early 50-s, about the same time as Chuck Berry, founding and shaping the genre that is Rock-n-Roll, breaking musical barriers while not gaining the credit they truly deserved, perhaps because of the color of their skin. You see, this wasn’t Trap music, it was Rock-n-Roll.
Little Richard’s hit song “Tutti Frutti” was recorded in October 1955, at which point Elvis was beginning his career. The following March, ”Tutti Frutti” was covered by Elvis, as well as “Long Tall Sally”: While Elvis always admitted how influential the African-American community was to music, Elvis received most of the credit and the world over never gave proper credit to Little Richard to this day.
Unfortunately, the heavy racism of the 50-s and 60-s made it complicated to have the same exposure as Elvis did. Little Richard was one of the first Black artists whose records were being bought by white kids, and their parents weren’t happy about it. He said he never really got what he deserved: “A lot of people call me the architect of rock ’n’ roll. I don’t call myself that, but I believe it’s true.”
Another musician Little Richard greatly influenced was Paul McCartney. McCartney integrated the signature high-pitched “Wooo!” into many Beatles’ songs. The Beatles covered Little Richard more than once, including the hit “Long Tall Sally”. Years later, Little Richard recorded their “I Saw Her Standing There” (a song loosely based on Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You”).
It seems like Little Richard reached almost every star in the industry with his music: the way he danced on stage inspired Mick Jagger’s famous moves, Queen covered “Tutti Frutti” at their live concert at Wembley in 1986 and the audience was singing along, and he at some point went on tour with Jimi Hedrix playing guitar.
Little Richard was explosive on stage with his piercing vocals, energy and flamboyant outfits, and makeup. Elton John, who opened for one of Little Richard’s London concerts, called him “A true legend, icon and a force of nature.” Elton John was inspired deeply by the way Little Richard was able to express himself on stage and definitely learned a lot from him.
In his last years, Little Richard stayed out of the spotlight after leaving the industry. He felt like he had strayed away from his path and turned back to religion. Little Richard inspired the future of music heavily and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. This American music icon is physically gone but will never be forgotten.