Little Richard, the eccentric singer and musician who was an early pioneer of rock n’ roll, died Saturday, according to reports. The man who recorded inter-generational and timeless hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” was 87 years old. His son did not disclose Little Richard’s cause of death to the New York Times.
The native of Macon, Georgia, had a legendary career that spanned multiple decades. It began in 1951 when he won a talent contest in Atlanta and as a result, he got a recording contract with MCA. Four years later he recorded “Tutti Frutti,” a song that was controversially sung on live TV by Elvis Presley, who stands accused of “Columbusing” Little Richard.
He later quit rock n’ roll and devoted his life to God and in the process released three gospel albums in the year 1960 alone. Little Rochard would later go on and tour the world with iconic bands and performers such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bo Didley.
While many people credit Little Richard with being the sole founder of rock n’ roll, the New York Times said that is not true. “Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September 1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been making records for a year,” the Times wrote.
Little Richard was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the latter in a class with Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and James Brown in 1986. He’s also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and performed at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. He officially retired from the music industry in 2013, but his contributions to the arts will outlast everybody reading this.
Scroll down to take a look at some of the rarer images from his inimitable career as the world mourns the loss of a musical legend. May he rest in power.
1. The 16th Annual Grammy AwardsSource:Getty
LOS ANGELES – MARCH 2: From left: Little Richard, Stevie Wonder’s brother, Lula Mae Hardaway (Stevie Wonder’s mother), Stevie Wonder, Chuck Berry and unidentified at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards. Image dated March 2, 1974. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images) celebrities,people,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,usa,television show,california,city of los angeles,males,medium group of people,black and white,archival,three quarter length,red carpet event,brother,people in a row,grammy awards,stevie wonder,chuck berry – musician,1974,little richard,lula mae hardaway
2. Music File Photos – The 1970s – by Chris WalterSource:Getty
Little Richard 1975 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,music,1970-1979,archival,little richard
3. AMERICAN BANDSTANDSource:Getty
UNITED STATES – JULY 24: AMERICAN BANDSTAND – Dick Clark – 7/24/64, Dick Clark (left, with guest Little Richard holding a picture of the Beatles) hosted “American Bandstand,” the most popular dance show of all-time and the cornerstone of Walt Disney Television via Getty Images’s afternoon line-up (1956-87). The program provided audiences with performances by top and undiscovered music personalities, dancing contests, “Rate-A-Record,” “The Spotlight Dance” and “Top Ten.” , (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) vertical,arts culture and entertainment,usa,television show,the media,day,in a row,dancing,dick clark,black and white,archival,philadelphia – pennsylvania,pennsylvania,1960-1969,american bandstand,abc – broadcasting company,little richard
4. AMERICAN BANDSTANDSource:Getty
UNITED STATES – APRIL 15: AMERICAN BANDSTAND – “Show Coverage” 1976 Little Richard (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,usa,california,city of los angeles,small,american bandstand,bandstand,little richard
5. Little Richard Preaches The GospelSource:Getty
OAKLAND, CA – 1981: Rock and roll legend Little Richard preaches the bible during a 1981 swing through Oakland, California. Richard became a preacher briefly in the early 1980s before returning to his rock and roll roots. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) celebrities,arts culture and entertainment,usa,waist up,portrait,music,rock music,california,religion,1980-1989,black and white,human hand,archival,human arm,arms raised,bible,gesturing,preacher,human finger,oakland – california,swinging,little richard
6. Little RichardSource:Getty
Little Richard poses for a studio portrait, USA, 1965. (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns) vertical,people,one person,arts culture and entertainment,usa,adult,adults only,portrait,music,one man only,black and white,archival,1960-1969,little richard
7. Stretching RichardSource:Getty
October 1962: The newly shorn American rock ‘n’ roll singer and pianist Little Richard stretches and yawns whilst on a visit to England. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images) people,arts culture and entertainment,portrait,music,uk,england,singer,rock music,males,new,black and white,archival,human interest,visit,stretching,tired,1960-1969,yawning,rock musician,pianist,little richard,square – composition
8. Photo of Dave KNIGHTS and Little RICHARDSource:Getty
GERMANY – CIRCA 1960: Photo of Dave KNIGHTS and Little RICHARD (Photo by Siegfried Loch – K & K/Redferns) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,music,germany,archival,small,1960-1969,little richard
9. Photo of Little RICHARDSource:Getty
UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Little RICHARD; Singing in studio, (Photo by Charlie Gillett Collection/Redferns) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,music,archival,singing,1960-1969,little richard
10. Little Richard Preaches During Rock N’ Roll HiatusSource:Getty
CIRCA 1958: Rock and roll singer Little Richard preaches to a crowd as he holds the bible after he quit rock and roll in circa 1958 only to return to it in 1962. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) people,arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,usa,waist up,music,singer,archival,bible,1950-1959,small,preacher,little richard,crowd of people
11. Little Richard PerformingSource:Getty
1956: Musician Little Richard performs onstage with his band in 1956. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,musician,music,performance,archival,1950-1959,little richard
12. Little Richard Poses For An Early PortraitSource:Getty
ATLANTA – CIRCA 1952: Little Richard poses for an early portrait circa 1952 in Atlanta, Georga. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images) arts culture and entertainment,usa,portrait,music,headshot,rock music,black and white,mustache,archival,morning,eyebrow,georgia – us state,blues music,1950-1959,eyeshadow,beauty product,hairstyle,r&b,facial hair,early rock & roll,atlanta – georgia,little richard,pencil mustache
13. Photo of FILM POSTERS and Little RICHARDSource:Getty
UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of FILM POSTERS and Little RICHARD; Mister Mock And Roll – film lobby card (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns) arts culture and entertainment,horizontal,music,archival,1950-1959,small,lobby,poster,film poster,little richard