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Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer dies


Pioneering Rock and Roll singer Little Richard has died at the age of 87, his son Danny Penniman has told Rolling Stone.

The magazine quoted him as saying his father’s cause of death was unknown.

Little Richard’s hits included Good Golly Miss Molly, which originally made the UK charts in 1958.

The singer, who was born in Georgia as Richard Wayne Penniman, was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

His other well-known songs include Tutti Frutti, which sold more than a million records, and Long Tall Sally – later recorded by The Beatles.

The star, who was known for his exuberant performances, shrieks, raspy voice and flamboyant outfits, had his biggest hits in the 1950s.

He was one of 12 children, and said he had started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings.

“I was the biggest head of all, and I still have the biggest head,” he told BBC Radio 4 in 1998.

“I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention.”

Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, on 5 December 1932. Growing up in the southern US state, he absorbed the rhythms of gospel music and the influences of New Orleans, blending them into his own piano-laden extravaganzas.

His father was a preacher who also ran a nightclub, and his mother was a devout Baptist.

“I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970.

The singer left home in his teens after disagreements with his father – who initially didn’t support his music.

“My daddy wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay,” the showman later said.

Though openly homosexual, Richard also had relationships with women. He married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical, and later adopted a son.

His commitment to depravity extended to drugs, boozing and sex parties – to which he would take his Bible.

The Rolling Stones, who opened shows for him, spoke reverently of his on-stage prowess. “Little Richard drove the whole house into a complete frenzy,” Mick Jagger once said. “There is no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience.”

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