Little Richard

Richard Wayne Penniman famed as Little Richard was an American singer, songwriter, and musician who is an influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop; his music helped shape rhythm and blues for generations to come. He was one of the first male artists to unabashedly wear makeup on stage and was famous for his androgynous dance moves. Moreover, he revolutionized the music world by introducing a certain kind of freedom characterized by the open expression of sexuality and rebellion. He gave the world hits like ‘Tutti-Frutti’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’. In the year 2015, he received a Rhapsody & Rhythm Award from the National Museum of African American Music for his key role in the formation of popular music genres and helping to bring an end to the racial divide on the music charts and in concert in the mid-1950s, changing American culture significantly. He was nicknamed “The Innovator”, “The Originator”, and “The Architect of Rock and Roll”. At the age of 87, Little Richard left the world on 9th May 2020 due to bone cancer.

Little Richard Dies at 87

Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records, died on Saturday in Tullahoma, Tenn at the age of 87. His lawyer, Bill Sobel, said the cause was bone cancer. “Tutti Frutti” rocketed up the charts and was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” and other records now acknowledged as classics. His live performances were electrifying. 

Famous For

  • Being a famous American singer, songwriter, and musician. 
  • For his hit song “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”.


What is the cause of the death of Little Richard?

He accidentally crashed his sports car into a telephone pole in West Hollywood, California and he suffered a broken right leg, broken ribs, and head and facial injuries. His recovery from the accident took several months. In 2007, Penniman began having problems walking due to sciatica in his left leg, requiring him to use crutches. In November 2009, he entered a hospital to have replacement surgery on his left hip. His problems with his hip continued, he was brought onstage by wheelchair and was able to play only when seated. On 30th September 2013, he revealed to CeeLo Green at a Recording Academy fundraiser that he had suffered a heart attack at his home the week prior and stated he used aspirin and had his son turn the air conditioner on, which his doctor confirmed had saved his life. On 9th May 2020, Penniman died at the age of 87 at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee from bone cancer, after a two-month illness. His brother, sister, and son were with him at the time of his death. He received tributes from musicians such as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, John Fogerty, Elton John, and Lenny Kravitz, as well as many others, such as film director John Waters, who were influenced by Penniman’s music and persona.

What is the birthplace of Little Richard?

On 5th December 1932, Little Richard was born with the real name/birth name of Richard Wayne Penniman. His birthplace is in Macon, Georgia, the USA. He was born as one of the twelve children of Charles Penniman and Leva Mae, his parents. As a result of complications at birth, he had a slight deformity that left one of his legs shorter than the other. His father was a church deacon who also sold bootlegged moonshine. His nationality is American and his ethnicity is Mixed. He grew up in an impoverished neighborhood and was called Little Richard because of his small frame. He was from a highly religious family and used to sing in the church choir as a child. He was a naturally born singer blessed with a loud voice. As per his education, he attended Macon’s Hudson High School. He was not bright academically but possessed great musical talents and played with the school’s marching band. He had an effeminate appearance and homosexual tendencies because of which his father kicked him out of the house when he was a teenager. He is Christian by religion and his birth sign is Sagittarius. He lastly celebrated his 87th birthday. 

How was Little Richard began his career?

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe invited him to open her show in October 1947 and after the show, he stated that he was inspired to play the piano after he heard Ike Turner’s piano intro on “Rocket 88”.
  • In the year 1949, he began performing in Doctor Nubillo’s traveling show.
  • He also joined Dr. Hudson’s Medicine Show in 1949. 
  • In the year 1950, he joined his first musical band, Buster Brown’s Orchestra, where Brown gave him the name Little Richard and he began performing for various vaudeville groups like Sugarfoot Sam, Tidy Jolly Steppers and Broad Follies. 
  • He was heavily influenced by the music of R&B artists Roy Brown and Billy Wright and forged a friendship with the later. 
  • Wright introduced him to Zenas Sears who helped him sign a contract with Camden. 
  • His single ‘Every Hour’ became a hit in the Georgia area. 
  • He was hired to front Perry Welch and His Orchestra and played at clubs and army bases for $100 a week.
  • He left the label in February 1952 after his records there failed to become national hits.
  • He began heading a vocal group called the Tempo Toppers in the year 1953 and he also performed with them as a part of blues package tours at clubs.
  • The producer of Specialty Records, Art Rupe was looking for a pianist cum singer to lead a group of musicians. 
  • He selected Richard after listening to his demo tape. 
  • He recorded a single ‘Tutti Frutti’ in the year 1955 which became an instant hit and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues Best-Sellers chart.
  • He released his next single ‘Long Tall Sally’ in 1956 which became his first hit song to reach No. 1 on the R&B chart which sold over a million copies.
  • He produces seven singles in the United States alone in 1956, with five of them also charting in the UK, including “Slippin’ and Slidin'”, “Rip It Up”, “Ready Teddy”, “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Lucille”. 
  • He released his debut album ‘Here’s Little Richard’ in the year  1957 which featured his super hit single ‘Long Tall Sally’ and reached No. 13 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. 
  • It was followed by ‘Little Richard’ in the year 1958 and ‘The Fabulous Little Richard’ in the year 1959.
  • At the end of his Sydney performance, Penniman saw a bright red fireball flying across the sky above him and said he was “deeply shaken”.
  • It was eventually told to him that it was the launching of the first artificial Earth satellite Sputnik 1, Penniman said that he took it as a “sign from God” to repent from performing secular music and his wild lifestyle at the time.
  • He then enrolled at Oakwood College to study theology and ended his contract with Specialty Records in the year 1959.
  • After that, he formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team and traveled all over the country to preach. 
  • He began recording gospel music and released three religious albums: ‘Pray Along with Little Richard (Vol. 1 & 2)’ and ‘The King of the Gospel Singers’ (1962).
  • During the 1960s he decided to make a comeback to pop music and brought out the album ‘Little Richard Is Back (And There’s A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On!)’, his first rock music album in five years in 1964.
  • His friend Larry Williams produced Little Richard’s album ‘The Explosive Little Richard’ in the year 1967 which was composed of cover versions and originals; however, failed to chart on Billboard.
  • He was also the star performer at several shows like Atlantic City Pop Festival and Toronto Pop Festival.
  • Moreover, he was invited to appear on a number of television programs like the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the Dick Cavett Show.
  • By the 1970s, he had developed a severe drug addiction and alcoholism and once again decided to quit rock and roll music. 
  • He then returned to evangelism in the year 1977.
  • During the 1980s and 1990s, he made several appearances in films in minor roles.
  • In the year 1984, he filed a $112-million lawsuit against Specialty Records; Art Rupe and his publishing company, Venice Music; and ATV Music for not paying royalties to him after he left the label in 1959.
  • In the year 1985, Charles White released the singer’s authorized biography, Quasar of Rock: The Life and Times of Little Richard, which returned Penniman to the spotlight.
  • In the year 1990, he contributed a spoken-word rap on Living Colour’s hit song, “Elvis Is Dead”, from their album Time’s Up. 
  • He appeared in a cameo for the music video of Cinderella’s “Shelter Me”. 
  • He was one of the featured performers on the hit single and video “Voices That Care” that was produced to help boost the morale of U.S. troops involved in Operation Desert Storm.
  • He then recorded a rock and roll version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” that year which led to a deal with Disney Records, resulting in the release of a hit 1992 children’s album, Shake It All About.
  • He sang the theme song to the award-winning PBS Kids and TLC animated television series The Magic School Bus in 1994. 
  • He performed around the world and appeared on TV, film, and tracks with other artists, including Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John and Solomon Burke.
  • He released his final album, Little Richard Meets Masayoshi Takanaka featuring members of Richard’s then current touring band in the year 1992. 
  • His life was dramatized in the biographical film “Little Richard” in the year 2000.
  • He was played by Leon, who earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for his performance in this role. 
  • He also contributed to the Johnny Cash tribute album Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash in the year 2002. 
  • He appeared in one of the ads for the short-lived Tostitos Gold tortilla chips in 2003 and he released two sets of unreleased and rare cuts, from the Okeh label 1966/67 and the Reprise label 1970/72 in between 2004-2005.
  • He was featured in a popular advertisement for the GEICO brand in 2006. 
  • He was a guest judge on the TV series Celebrity Duets.
  • Penniman and Lewis performed alongside John Fogerty at the 2008 Grammy Awards in a tribute to the two artists considered to be cornerstones of rock and roll by the NARAS. 
  • In June 2010, he recorded a gospel track for an upcoming tribute album to songwriting legend Dottie Rambo. 
  • He was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in a concert in New Orleans attended by Fats Domino in 2009. 
  • He performed a full 90-minute show at the Pensacola Interstate Fair in Pensacola, Florida, in October 2012, at the age of 79.
  • In May 2016, the National Museum of African American Music announced that Penniman was one of the key artists and music industry leaders to attend its 3rd annual Celebration of Legends Luncheon in Nashville honoring Shirley Caesar, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff with Rhapsody & Rhythm Awards.
  • Hitman Records released the album California (I’m Comin’), with released and previously unreleased material from the 1970s, including an a cappella version of Penniman’s 1975 single “Try To Help Your Brother” in the year 2016. 
  • He participated in a long television interview for the Christian Three Angels Broadcasting Network, clean-shaven, without makeup, dressed in a blue paisley coat and tie, and in a wheelchair on 6th September 2017. 
  • On 23rd October 2019, he addressed the audience after receiving the Distinguished Artist Award at the 2019 Tennessee Governor’s Arts Awards at the Governor’s Residence in Nashville.

What Awards and Achievements had Little Richard achieved?

Little Richard is a famous award winning singer. In his lifetime, he rесеіvеd numеrоuѕ аwаrdѕ thrоughоut hіѕ саrееr. Не wаѕ hоnоurеd іn thе Grаmmу Наll оf Fаmе mаnу tіmеѕ. He аlѕо rесеіvеd thе Аmеrісаn Мuѕіс Аwаrd оf Меrіt, thе Rhуthm аnd Вluеѕ Fоundаtіоn Ріоnееr Аwаrd, аnd thе NААСР Іmаgе Аwаrd-Наll оf Fаmе Аwаrd. Не wаѕ аwаrdеd wіth thе Grаmmу Lіfеtіmе Асhіеvеmеnt Аwаrd іn 1993, аnd wіth thе Rосk & Rоll Наll оf Fаmе іn 1986. On 23rd October 2019, he addressed the audience after receiving the Distinguished Artist Award at the 2019 Tennessee Governor’s Arts Awards at the Governor’s Residence in Nashville.

Who is Little Richard’s Wife?


Little Richard was a married person. He was married to Ernestine Campbell on 12th July 1959. The duo met each other in the year 1957. The married couple later divorced in the year 1963. He has one adopted son with whom he shares a close relationship. Ernestine later married McDonald Campbell in Santa Barbara, California, on March 23, 1975. Little Richard’s sexual orientation has always been a topic of curiosity for the fans. As a teenager, he used to have sexual relations with both the sexes. He also displayed voyeuristic tendencies as a teenager. His father brutally punished him whenever he caught him wearing his mother’s makeup and clothing. The singer said he had been sexually involved with both sexes as a teenager. Because of his effeminate mannerisms, his father kicked him out of their family home at 15. In the year 1985, on The South Bank Show, Penniman said, “my daddy put me out of the house. He said he wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay.” In his 1984 book, while calling homosexuality “unnatural” and “contagious”, he told Charles White he was “omnisexual”. He told Penthouse that he always knew he was gay, saying “I’ve been gay all my life” in 1995. In October 2017, he again denounced homosexuality in an interview with Three Angels Broadcasting Network, calling homosexual and transgender identity “unnatural affection” that goes against “the way God wants you to live”. 

What is the Net Worth of Little Richard?

Little Richard was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. As of 2020, the net worth of Little Richard is estimated to have $40 Million. That money includes his properties and assets, as well as the earnings from his iconic music over the years. He is considered one of the “founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll,” and spent about six decades touring, releasing records, and performing at massive industry events. At the height of his addiction, Little Richard was reportedly spending about $1,000 per day on drugs. There is no information about his salary, house, and cars. He was living a luxurious lifestyle prior to his death. 

How tall is Little Richard?

Little Richard was a very handsome singer with a charming smile and attractive personality attracting a lot of people towards him. He had got a tall height of 1.77 m whereas his balanced bodyweight consist of 70 Kg. His other body measurements such as biceps size, waist size, hips size, and more are unknown yet.

Facts of Little Richard

  • Little Richard identified as gay, bisexual, and even “omnisexual.”
  • During his marriage to Ernestine, the couple adopted one son, Danny Jones Penniman. 
  • By 15 years old, he was kicked out of his home by his father. 
  • In 1962, Little Richard was arrested “for a sexual encounter with a man in a bus station restroom,” according to NBC News. 
  • On 19th January 1993, he performed “Good Golly Miss Molly” at President Bill Clinton’s inaugural gala. 

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