Little Richard, one of the pioneers of the first wave of rock’n’roll, has died. He was 87.
Richard – whose real name was Richard Penniman – had been in poor health for several years, suffering hip problems, a stroke and a heart attack.
Rolling Stone magazine said Richard’s son, Danny Penniman, “confirmed the pioneer’s death … but said the cause of death was unknown”. Penniman also confirmed his father’s death to the New York Times.
The sheriff’s department for Macon, Georgia, where Richard was born and lived, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a post on Instagram, band member Kelvin Holly said: “Rest in peace, Richard. This one really stings. My thoughts and prayers go out to all my bandmates and fans all over the world. Richard truly was the king!”
Richard’s performing career began when he was in mid-teens, in the late 40s, but his early recordings with the RCA Victor label garnered little success.
The breakthrough came when he signed to Specialty Records in 1955, releasing a run of singles that were among the wildest and most flamboyant of the rock’n’roll era – Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, The Girl Can’t Help It, Lucille, Keep A-Knockin’ and Good Golly, Miss Molly, among others – and that made him a star on both sides of the Atlantic.
He was known for his outrageous performance style – eyes lined with mascara, brightly coloured clothes – which was echoed later by Prince. He had been a drag performer before the rock’n’roll boom and by his own admission was involved in voyeurism, allowing men to have sex in the back seat of his car while he watched. He was arrested at least twice for lewd conduct.