Singer Little Richard, who was a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll, passed away on Saturday, the family of the musician has confirmed.
He was 87.
Reports quoted the musician’s lawyer Bill Sobel as saying that Richard died of bone cancer.
Richard started his career with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956 after which he cut a series of unstoppable hits “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” in the same year.
Richard had his biggest hits in 1950s.
His other hits are “Lucille” in 1957 and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958 – driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged lyrics.
Rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, but Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage – gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup.
Richard was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen.
Offstage, he characterized himself variously as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual”.
“He’d just burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience,” the record producer and arranger HB Barnum, who played saxophone with Little Richard early in his career, recalled in “The Life and Times of Little Richard” (1984), an authorized biography by Charles White.
The star sold more than 30 million records worldwide.
He was known for his exuberant performances, shrieks, raspy voice and flamboyant outfits.
Tributes are pouring in as the news of his death spread like wildfire.
Paying tribute to the star, Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers said it was “the loss of a true giant”.
Charles Glenn, bass guitarist for Richard, told celebrity news website TMZ, the singer had been ill for two months.
Richard died at his Tennessee home, with his brother, sister and son beside him, said Glenn.
Richard 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.
Richard 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 2008.
“I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention,” Richard further said.
Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, on December 5, 1932.
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, says a BBC report.
Richard openly said he was homosexual but he also had relationships with women.
The musician married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical, and later adopted a son.