Theme Times – Little Richard

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Little Richard By TGC-Topps Gum Cards – ebay itemfrontback, Public Domain

Richard Wayne Penniman (December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020), better known as Little Richard, was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. An influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades, he was nicknamed “The Innovator”, “The Originator”, and “The Architect of Rock and Roll”. Penniman’s most celebrated work dates from the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship and dynamic music, characterized by frenetic piano playing, pounding backbeat and raspy shouted vocals, laid the foundation for rock and roll. His innovative emotive vocalizations and uptempo rhythmic music also played a key role in the formation of other popular music genres, including soul and funk. 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.

“Tutti Frutti” (1955), one of Penniman’s signature songs, became an instant hit, crossing over to the pop charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom. His next hit single, “Long Tall Sally” (1956), hit No. 1 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues Best-Sellers chart, followed by a rapid succession of 15 more hit singles in less than three years. His performances during this period resulted in integration between White Americans and African Americans in his audience. In 1962, during a five-year period in which Penniman abandoned rock and roll music for born-again Christianity, concert promoter Don Arden persuaded him to tour Europe. During this time, Arden had the Beatles open for Penniman on some tour dates, capitalizing on his popularity. Penniman advised them on how to perform his songs and taught the band’s member Paul McCartney his distinctive vocalizations.

Penniman is cited as one of the first crossover black artists, reaching audiences of all races. His music and concerts broke the color line, drawing blacks and whites together despite attempts to sustain segregation. His contemporaries, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, all recorded covers of his works. Taken by his music and style, and personally covering four of Penniman’s songs on his own two breakthrough albums in 1956, Presley told Penniman in 1969 that his music was an inspiration to him and that he was “the greatest”.

Penniman was honored by many institutions. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its first group of inductees in 1986. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 2015, Penniman 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. “Tutti Frutti” was included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2010, which stated that his “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”.


Little Richard By Globe Poster Baltimore –, Public Domain

Sadly yesterday May 09th 2020 we lost in my eyes an outstanding performer … Little Richard an absolute pioneer for rock’n’roll and an incredible influencer to many artists, but above everything else an cracking singer and musician. I grew up with his songs many a time playing in the background of my life and early years understanding my love of music.

Below are in my opinion his top 15 best songs – so tell me?

Fan or not, and of what?

1 – Tutti Frutti – 1955

2 – Long Tall Sally – 1956

3 – Slippin’ and Slidin’ – 1956

4 – Little Richard’s Boogie – 1956

5 – Ready Teddy – 1956

6 – Rip It Up – 1956

7 – Heebie- Jeebies – 1956

8 – Send Me Some Lovin – 1957

9 – Jenny Jenny – 1957

10 – Lucille – 1957

11 – Good Golly, Miss Molly – 1958

12 – Hey – Hey – Hey – Hey  – 1958

13 – By The Light of the Silvery Moon  – 1959

14 – Bama Lama Bama Loo  – 1964

15 – Freedom Blues  – 1970




So folks – Little Richard – Fan or not, and of what?


Theme Times is a once a week feature – who would you like to see for the remainder of the month of May, check the options below and let me know in the comments section. Cheers Rory

Jim Croce

Alice Cooper

John Grisham Movies

Celine Dion

Bette Davis

Jane Fonda

Henry Fonda

Katherine Hepburn

Mel Gibson

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12 thoughts on “Theme Times – Little Richard

  1. Aw man! Another great loss😢💔 I haven’t read any “news” in a few days. I am a fan! But in small doses. Like James Brown, Little Richard is too intense for long listening. To me, anyway. 🤷🏼‍♀️
    Thank you for this post and tribute to another great musician who has left behind a fantastic legacy.

  2. I just thank my lucky stars that I was born and raised in NYC – nothing banned there (not even the Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me”) Pat Boone cover of Tutti Frutti??? We laughed still our sides ached. Little Richard, oh yeah! Memories of my childhood…( a lot, if not all? black performers from the 50’s never got played on the radio outside of the big (northern) cities.)

      1. Oh lordy, no! Not Pat Boone, that would be cruel and damaging to my reputation. Ugh, Pat Boone…no, no, no.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to a great performer! My Dad was born and raised in this area of southern Georgia. We went down to visit my grandparents every summer, so I remember how life was there in the 5o’s. All I can say is it had to take tremendous strength to accomplish all he did against such odds! Thank you for another great read, Rory!

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