Little Richard

American musician (1932–2020)

Richard Wayne Penniman (5 December 1932 - 9 May 2020), known by the stage name Little Richard, was an American singer, songwriter and pianist, whose hits in the mid-1950s were defining moments in the development of rock and roll. His songs combined childishly amusing lyrics with sexually suggestive content and his flamboyant style and music influenced many artists of various genres, including helping to inspire and develop other genres such as soul music and funk.

I always did have that thing but I didn't know what to do with the thing I had. So the style has always been with me ... I always had my little thing I wanted to let the world hear, you know.


  • The average person, when they see a black man, they would say "Man, he got soul cos' his color." But I disagree with that. I think that God would be a very selfish God if He gave all the soul to one race. He lets his rain fall on the red flowers, the green flowers, the blue flowers; the good, the bad, no races, so He lets His blessings fall on all races. So I think that there are types of souls, like there are different types of cars. But they're all cars. You know, I think that, when a white guy sing[s], if he have soul, that don't mean that he had to copy no negro to get it. I believe if he feels, when one sings from the heart and it reaches another heart, that's soul.
  • I came from a family where my people didn't like rhythm and blues. Bing Crosby - "Pennies from Heaven" - Ella Fitzgerald, was all I heard.
    • As quoted in Yesterdays : Popular Song in America (1979), by Charles Hamm, p. 391
      • Studying Popular Music (1990/2002) by Richard Middleton
  • Well, you know I used to play piano for the church. You know that spiritual, 'Give Me that Old Time Religion', most churches just say, [sings] "Give me that old time religion" but I did, [sings] "Give me that old time, talkin' 'bout religion," you know I put that little thing in it you know, I always did have that thing but I didn't know what to do with the thing I had. So the style has always been with me... I always had my little thing I wanted to let the world hear, you know.
    • When asked what inspired him to write 'Tutti Frutti' amd where the style came from, in The Rolling Stone Interviews: 1967-1980 (1989) edited by Peter Herbst, p. 91
  • A lot of songs I sang to crowds to get their reaction. That's how I knew they'd hit.
    • As quoted in The Life and Times of Little Richard : The Authorized Biography (2003) by Charles White
  • His rhythm is the only one I can sing my songs to.
  • There's something I prefer not saying, I will say this. I'm a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I believe the seventh-day Sabbath is God's way. I believe we should eat kosher. I was invited to a party night before last. Rod Stewart's. I didn't go, because I open the Sabbath on Friday.
  • Bob Dylan is my brother. I love him same as Bobby Darin [deceased] is my baby. I feel Bob Dylan is my blood brother. I believe if I didn't have a place to stay, Bob Dylan would buy me a house. He sat by my bed; he didn't move for hours. I was in pain that medicine couldn't stop. My tongue was cut out, leg all tore up, bladder punctured. I was supposed to be dead. Six feet under. God resurrected me; that's the reason I have to tell the world about it.
  • I appreciate being picked one of the top 100 performers, but who is number one and who is number two doesn't matter to me anymore. Because it won't be who I think it should be. The Rolling Stones started with me, but they're going to always be in front of me. The Beatles started with me — at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, before they ever made an album — but they're going to always be in front of me. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix — these people started with me. I fed them, I talked to them, and they're going to always be in front of me.
  • «I am the innovator. I am the creator. I am the emancipator. I am the architect of rock 'n' roll!» [1]
  • Wop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bom-bom!
    Tutti frutti, oh rutti

    Tutti frutti, woo!
    Tutti frutti, oh rutti
    Tutti frutti, oh rutti
    Tutti frutti, oh rutti
    Awop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bom-bom!
    • "Tutti Frutti", co-written with Dorothy LaBostrie and Joe Lubin · Performance with lyrics
    • Variants:
    • A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!
      • Used only as the final exclamation in the original recording, this variant was used throughout the song as sung by Elvis Presley.
    • A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-wop-bam-boom!
      • Commonly used paraphrase
  • I got a gal, named Sue, she knows just what to do,
    I got a gal, named Sue, she knows just what to do.
    She rocks to the East, she rocks to the West,
    She is the gal that I love best.
    Tutti frutti, oh rutti.
    • "Tutti Frutti"
  • I woke up this mornin', Lucille was not in sight,
    I asked my friends about her but all their lips was tight,
    Lucille, please come back where you belong,
    I've been good to you baby, please don't lead me along.
    • Lucille, co-written with Albert Collins

Quotes about Little Richard

  • I wanna introduce a man that started a kind of music that set the pace for a lot of what's happening today. Ladies and gentlemen, if you don't mind, here is my man, bless his little sweet heart, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Little Richard!"
  • He was the biggest of them all. And he knew it. ...he wanted everyone to call him 'King Richard'.... He had the biggest, flashiest and with all the best looking players. He also had the greatest parties in his hotel rooms. At least, that's what I was told. They wouldn't let me in, because I was underage." Etta also mentions her first meeting with James Brown, in Macon, Georgia, where this young Dancer/Boxer/Gospel Singer had befriended Little Richard. "He used to carry around an old tattered napkin with him, because Little Richard had written the words, 'Please, Please, Please' on it and James was determined to make a song out of it.
    • Etta James, Merlis, Bob $ Seay, David. (1997), from the foreword by Etta James. "Heart and Soul: A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975." New York: Stewart, Tubori and Chang, 1997
  • Thank you all very much, especially the rock 'n' rollers, an' Little Richard there [pointing to him] - it was all his fault really.
  • I was a little kid when I heard Little Richard. He was playing piano and singing that song," recalls Green before breaking into the opening lines of Richard's "Jenny, Jenny." Even then, he continues, "I knew he was a classic, one-of-a-kind. I never heard (anyone) with that kind of enthusiasm.
  • Well I'd certainly have to have a tip of the hat to Little Richard. I'd say it's sort of a composite guy, because obviously I love Wilson Pickett, and there are a few guys who have that sort of high, edgy thing, Little Richard being the best and the most famous. Wilson even screamed in tune. My voice came out a certain way and I've learned to be that way.
  • Little Richard - he was the first one that really got to me. Little Richard and, of course, Elvis Presley. I don't know if it was because of James Brown and Little Richard, I always preferred a high energy vocal, a hard full-force vocal. I liked Little Richard better than Elvis, and I liked James Brown better than the Beatles...but the Miracles were a heavy influence on me, too...[though] I always preferred the more energized vocals.
  • The first Rock 'n' Roll record I listened to was 'The Girl Can't Help It,' by Little Richard.
  • Chuck Berry's "duck walk," Presley's bumps and grinds, Jerry Lee Lewis's wanton destruction of pianos, Little Richard's bizarre stage theatrics. As part of the counter-discourse of early rock 'n' roll, such practices not only assaulted high culture but also brought sexual display into the public realm, which is finally the same thing, for it is the body … That is excluded by the dominant course of mid-century modernism.
    • Bruce Tucker, The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History from Africa to the United States, p - 179
  • First putting the funk in the rock and roll beat.
  • ...The idea of being gay was never, ever discussed in the black world at that time. It had to happen on such a low-key level – believe me, the idea of being found out was really scary. But Little Richard didn’t care and what I picked up from him early on, a black, gay man, was the freedom he took for himself. No one gave him that right. He just took it. He did just what he needed to do to be who he wanted to be...
  • ...Little Richard had that confidence because of the toughness of his early life. He used to talk about how his dad [a deacon who ran a nightclub] used to treat him [his father disapproved of his sexuality and beat him] and how he kept his head up. He was torn between rock’n’roll and the gospel all his life and he talked about that too – it affected him a lot and it was a battle that couldn’t be won...
  • ...I loved him, man. He had to push, push, push for everything and I don’t think there was one popular entertainer– from Elvis onwards – who he didn’t affect. I really don’t think he knew how much people were affected by him, but that was probably a good thing. It made him who he was. He was still the guy who took all the ingredients of rock’n’roll, prepared the meal and served it up, who still had that passion for being himself to the end – for letting himself go free.

The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorized Biography (2003)

Quotes of others on Little Richard from The Life and Times of Little Richard : The Authorized Biography (2003) by Charles White
  • Richard opened the door. He brought the races together. When I first went on the road there were many segregated audiences. With Richard, although they still had the audiences segregated in the building, they were there TOGETHER. And most times before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together. Up until then, the audiences were either all black or all white and no one else could come in. His records weren't boy-meets-girl-girl-meets-boy things, they were FUN records, all fun. And they had a lot to say sociologically in our country and the world. The shot was fired here and heard around the world." "When Richard opened his mouth, man, everyone could enjoy it. He's got a voice that would make 'em jump up and down... that's the first time I ever saw spotlights and flicker lights used at a concert show. It had all been used in show business but he brought it into our world.
  • Little Richard was not only a giant but a pioneer of the so-called Rock 'n' Roll music industry. He had such a unique voice and style that no one else has matched it... Rock 'n' Soul is here to stay!
  • I never thought I'd ever meet Little Richard. He was my idol at school. The first song I ever sang in public was 'Long Tall Sally,' at a Butlins holiday camp talent competition! I love his voice and I always wanted to sing like him.
  • I had heard so much about the audience reaction that I thought there must be some exaggeration. But it was all true. He drove the whole house into a complete frenzy. There's no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience. I couldn't believe the power of Little Richard on stage. He was amazing. Chuck Berry is my favorite, along with Bo (Diddley), but nobody could beat Little Richard's stage act. Little Richard is the originator and my first idol.
  • The most exciting moment of my life was appearing on the same stage as Little Richard.
  • I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice.
  • Elvis was bigger than religion in my life. Then this boy at school said he'd got this record by somebody called Little Richard who was better than Elvis. We used to go to this boys house after school and listen to Elvis on 78s: we'd buy five ciggies loose and some chips and go along. The new record was Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally'. When I heard it, it was so great I couldn't speak. You know how you are torn. I didn't want to leave Elvis but this was so much better. We all looked at each other. I didn't want to say anything against Elvis, even in my mind. How could they both be happening in my life? And then someone said, "It's a nigger singing." I didn't know negroes sang. So Elvis was white and Little Richard was black. This was a great relief. "Thank you God," I said. "There is a difference between them." But I though about it for days at school, of the labels on the records of Elvis and Little Richard. One was yellow and the other was blue, and I thought of the yellow against the blue.
  • Little Richard was a one-of-a-kind show business genius. He influenced so many people in the business.
  • I love Little Richard. He is a great entertainer and he has done so much for our music.
  • Little Richard's records were the best Rock 'n' Roll records.
  • After hearing Little Richard on record, I bought a saxaphone and came into the music business. Little Richard was my inspiration.
  • In the spiritual poll of Rock n Roll, Little Richard is a tried and true original. Since his beginning, all have picked up from his style and from his music, from the early Beatles to Mick Jagger today. At one time it was all Little Richard's original raving craving thing.
  • Little Richard is a great originator. He was right there at the start, a thrilling performer.
  • Little Richard is twice as valid artistically and important historically as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones put together.
  • Little Richard represented what I wanted to be. He was, and still is, my idol.
  • Once you have seen this man you know instantly that you have seen the greatest Rock n Roll legend of our time.
  • Richard is an original, and the songs he's written and the songs he's done and made famous are just one of a kind."
  • The first 45 I ever played was by Little Richard. Even today, I constantly listen to Little Richard.
  • There would have been no DEEP PURPLE if there had been no Little Richard.
  • When I was in high school I wanted to be like Little Richard.
  • If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here. I entered the music business because of Richard - he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff, you know. Richard has soul, too. My present music has a lot of him in it.
  • No one person has been imitated more than Little Richard.
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