2016 – the annus horribilus – marches on, with news that another beloved icon is gravely ill. Flamboyant early rock pioneer Little Richard is reportedly in serious medical distress. Multiple media outlets are reporting that the “Tutti Frutti” singer is in critical condition at an unnamed hospital, and that family members are gathering at his bedside. Longtime friend Bootsy Collins just tweeted, “A friend, a legend & some say the true King of Rock & Roll. Lil-Richard needs our love & understanding right now….”
There has been no official word from his publicist or family members about his health. In 2013, he suffered a heart attack during a fundraising event for the Recording Academy and announced his retirement from music a few weeks afterwards. Before the announcement, he had to stop a concert when he told the audience that he could barely breathe and exited the stage.
More news as the story develops….
Little Richard, real name Richard Wayne Penniman, was born in Macon in 1932. From an early age, he had a love of music and performing which caused concern for his parents. He joined a Black traveling music show that led to him performing on the “Chitlin Circuit” throughout the Black South. He was well known for wearing thick “pancake” makeup and his outrageous stage presence that was combined with an equally wild lifestyle. In 2000, the movie Richard directed by Robert Townsend and starring actor Leon portrayed his incredible music career. Little Richard was part of the musical acts that changed what was known then as “race music” to the term “rock & roll” as Whites purchased his records and made him a recording star. The singer is now 83 and regarded as the father of “Rock & Roll” by such megastars as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones who have called him an inspiration behind their music.
Watch Little Richard in two classic performances below: