Self-Proclaimed 'Architect of Rock 'n' Roll' Is Dead at 87

Little Richard is gone
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2020 9:30 AM CDT
The Self-Proclaimed 'Architect of Rock 'n' Roll' Is Dead at 87
This 1966 file photo shows Little Richard.   (AP Photo, File)

Little Richard, the self-proclaimed "architect of rock 'n' roll" whose piercing wail, pounding piano and towering pompadour irrevocably altered popular music while introducing black R&B to white America, has died Saturday. He was 87. Pastor Bill Minson, a close friend of Little Richard's, told the AP that Little Richard died Saturday morning. Minson said he also spoke to Little Richard's son and brother. Minson added that the family is not releasing the cause of death. Born Richard Penniman, Little Richard was one of rock 'n' roll’s founding fathers who helped shatter the color line on the music charts, joining Chuck Berry and Fats Domino in bringing what was once called "race music" into the mainstream.

Richard’s hyperkinetic piano playing, coupled with his howling vocals and hairdo, made him an implausible sensation—a gay, black man celebrated across America during the buttoned-down Eisenhower era. He sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and his influence on other musicians was equally staggering, from the Beatles and Otis Redding to Creedence Clearwater Revival and David Bowie. In his personal life, he wavered between raunch and religion, alternately embracing the Good Book and outrageous behavior. "Little Richard? That’s rock ‘n’ roll," Neil Young once said. "Little Richard was great on every record." It was 1956 when his classic "Tutti Frutti" landed like a hand grenade in the Top 40, highlighted by Richard’s memorable call of "wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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