Founding father of rock Little Richard has died: Rolling Stone

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NEW YORK, May 9, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Little Richard, whose outrageous
showmanship and lightning-fast rhythms intoxicated crowds in the 1950s
with hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” has died. He was
87 years old.

Citing the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer’s son, Rolling Stone magazine said
Saturday the cause of death was unknown.

With a distinctive voice that ranged from robust belting to howling
falsetto, Richard transfixed audiences and became an inspiration for
artists including The Beatles as he transformed the blues into the
feverish new style of rock ‘n’ roll alongside Fats Domino and Chuck
Berry.

His raunchy 1955 song “Tutti Frutti,” even with its gay sex theme
toned down for radio, became a sort of opening salvo of rock ‘n’
roll’s entry into American life, starting with his nonsensical but
instantly thrilling first line: “Awop bop a loo mop / Alop bam boom.”

But if his contemporaries kept the respectabilities of old-time
musicians, Richard stunned buttoned-down post-World War II America
with an otherworldly look of blindingly colorful shirts,
glass-embedded dinner jackets, a needle-thin moustache and a
15-centimeter (six-inch) high pompadour haircut.

A consummate entertainer since his childhood, Richard would play
piano with one leg hoisted over the keys and, in one legendary concert
in Britain, played dead on stage so effectively that the venue sought
out medical help before he resurrected himself to an astounded crowd.

While touring, Richard’s lifestyle became the epitome of the
decadence of rock ‘n’ roll. Well before the notorious wild parties of
rockers in the 1960s, Richard spoke fondly of nightly orgies in his
hotel rooms where he was both an avid, bisexual participant and a
self-gratifying voyeur.

But Richard was one of rock’s most torn personas and he never
became an obvious icon for the African American or gay communities.

Once open by the standards of his time about his attraction to men,
Richard became a born-again Christian and renounced homosexuality,
treating it as a temporary choice in a manner that is anathema to the
modern gay rights movement and psychologists.

And while he was one of the first African American artists to cross
the racial divide, a younger generation of black DJs had little
interest in an artist seen as embedded in the white mainstream.

Tributes quickly poured out Saturday for the late rock king, with
co-founder of Chic Nile Rodgers dubbing it “the loss of a true giant.”

 

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