"He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains," said Dick Alen, the singer's agent for over 40 years.
Little Richard was known for his electric energy on stage and his amazing piano skills. Sadly, the rock 'n' roll legend died, at 87, due to bone cancer. Dick Alen, who has been the singer's agent for over four decades confirmed the news of his death, "Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville," Alen tells People. "He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say 'I’m not well.' He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”.
Born in 1938 as Richard Wayne Penniman, the singer rose to fame in the 50s, and he was known for his ebullient performances and ornate outfits. His raspy voice was so popular and loved that he's sold more than 30 million records worldwide, as per BBC. Some of his famous songs include Good Golly Miss Molly, Tutti Frutti, and Long Tall Sally. He was touted to be one of the most influential musicians in history, with big names like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley all crediting him as a seminal influence. His performances were far ahead of his time, much like the ones we have seen from artists like David Bowie and Elton John.
Little Richard grew up in Macon, Georgia with 11 siblings. He was born with a defect where his right leg was shorter than his left by three inches. His father, a bricklayer, was ashamed of Richard's affectations. However, he was shot to death during a scuffle in 1952. His mom, who hoped that God was the answer to cure his defect, sent him to New Hope Baptist Church every Sunday. However, instead of being cured, he discovered something- singing. When he was just 10-years-old, he started a gospel group called Tiny Tots Quartet and they put on music shows for the people at nursing homes and in churches and accepted sweet potatoes as their payment.
From 'Tutti Frutti' to 'Long Tall Sally' to 'Good Golly, Miss Molly' to 'Lucille', Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager. I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it. He would say, 'I taught Paul everything he knows'. pic.twitter.com/96bOzphhs8— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) May 10, 2020
"There wasn’t any rock’n’roll at that time," he recalled in an interview years ago. "So we sang gospel. Everybody around us was singing gospel—the women hanging out the wash, the old men on the porches at night, everybody." He started singing because he wanted to stand out from his other siblings. "I was the biggest head of all, and I still have the biggest head," he told the BBC in 2008. "I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention." He left home after his father didn't support his music. In the midst of working as a janitor at a bus station and a dishwasher, he made his dream of becoming a musician a reality.
The Originator. The innovator. The musician, performer who influenced generations of artists....has left. You were AWESOME #LittleRichard!!! Your talent will reverberate forever. Well done sir. Rest well❤ pic.twitter.com/PsFH4SOUZy— Viola Davis (@violadavis) May 9, 2020
He chose the name Little Richard and the Upsetters in the early ’50s because "We used to upset everybody," he explained, "because we all wore makeup and acted weird." Soon enough, he became a national celebrity and he loved the attention. "I wanted to be famous and have a Cadillac. Where I was born the only time you rode in a Cadillac was after you were dead." With his fame, he also dabbled in drugs. "Man, they think they just discovered that stuff, but it ain’t nothing but elephant tranquilizer and it’s been around for years," he previously said.
RIP Little Richard. A true legend of rock n roll... In 2012, we had the honor of watching him perform side stage in Memphis. Final song hits and he calls Charity onstage! She dances and sings with him and he said “Child, you make me wanna scream like a white girl!” Legend.— The Head & The Heart (@headandtheheart) May 11, 2020
His career soared, with breaks in between, and in 1986, he was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame. Richard continued to perform till 2016, collaborating with artists like Jon Bon Jovi and Elton John. His music was loved at a time where there was still a divide between people based on color, and he says "I've always thought that rock 'n' roll brought the races together," in an interviewer. "Although I was black, the fans didn't care. I used to feel good about that." However, he did feel like the deep racial prejudice overshadowed his musical influence. According to The Guardian, he is survived by his son, Danny.
#LittleRichard, you were one of the most amazing performers I’ve ever known, but the best part was being able to call you my dear friend. Thank you for so many amazing memories over the years, your music and energy will live on forever!! ♥️♥️♥️ https://t.co/zosImXWbVz— Marie Osmond (@marieosmond) May 11, 2020